COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri attorney general has closed an open-records complaint filed against Gov. Mike Parson, citing the Republican governor's office as a client.
At issue is a complaint filed by a Missouri news agency after Parson's office refused to provide resignation letters from top administration officials Randall Williams, the health director, and former Chief Operating Officer Drew Erdmann. The two left Parson's administration in April but no information was provided as to why.
Parson’s office declined to provide Williams’ and Erdmann’s resignation letters to The Associated Press and also denied a Missouri Independent records request.
Parson spokeswoman Kelli Jones has said resignation letters are closed personnel records, although she provided former Social Services Department Director Steve Corsi’s resignation letter to AP in 2019.
A Missouri Independent reporter in response asked Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office to investigate.
“Missouri residents deserve to have access to records related to the sudden resignations of two top officials paid for with taxpayer dollars who helped oversee the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine rollout that have affected every Missourian for more than a year,” reporter Tessa Weinberg wrote in the complaint.
Schmitt's office closed Weinberg's complaint last week. In a letter to the Missouri Independent, Assistant Attorney General James Klahr advised the reporter contact a private lawyer.
“This entity is a client of our office,” said Klahr, referencing Parson's office. “Staff cannot discuss any action our office may take regarding this issue.”
Schmitt spokesman Chris Nuelle said the office has “not been hesitant to act on potential Sunshine Law violations.”
Missouri’s attorney general is responsible for enforcing the state’s Sunshine laws, which cover both public records and public meetings. The office also sometimes represents the Governor’s Office and state agencies in lawsuits.
Past attorneys general have handled potential Sunshine Law violations by the Governor's Office differently.
Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, during his brief time serving as state attorney general, investigated the use of a secretive app by some of former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens' staffers. His office found Greitens' staff didn't appear to violate the state Sunshine Law.