Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Governor Matt Blunt's Office - Official Response to E-mail's Released to Public

TRUTH CHECK: Media Outlets Mislead Missourians with E-mail Stories

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Matt Blunt’s office today issued the following truth check providing specific examples of how media outlets deliberately misled Missourians about a former employee who was dismissed for poor performance, insubordination, tardiness and using state resources for private work.

“The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Kansas City Star and The Associated Press all published misleading stories about e-mail and a former employee of the governor’s office who has been dishonest with the public and the press about why he was fired,” said Gov. Blunt’s spokeswoman Jessica Robinson. “This office has only sought to provide the truth. The media has endlessly attempted to support a lie they were told by a former employee of this office. Once again this office is pleased to provide fact-based information to the public and the press.”

TRUTH CHECK

1) FALSE: “Newly released e-mail records reveal a former Gov. Matt Blunt legal counsel was fired shortly after cautioning his colleagues that their defense of e-mail deletions ran contrary to state law.” (David Lieb, The Associated Press, November 16, 2008)

“Scott Eckersley’s rise and fall – and proof of his longstanding claim that he had warned the administration over e-mail secrecy – are documented in a cache of 60,166 pages of e-mails…” (Steve Kraske and Jason Noble, The Kansas City Star, November 16, 2008)

TRUE: These e-mail records do not reveal the former employee cautioned his colleagues that their “defense of e-mail deletions ran contrary to state law.” The e-mails do not show he “warned the administration over e-mail secrecy.”

We invite Missourians to read the summarized communications strategy memo, http://governor.mo.gov/9-14-07%20222pm.pdf, the three media outlets are arguing about. They will find that it is sent casually as an FYI with instructions to “use if you want to.” It is clearly intended to assist with communications strategy. It does not caution the office that it is violating the law. It summarizes information already provided by the General Counsel. It criticizes Jo Mannies with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And it offers advice on how to attack Attorney General Jay Nixon.



2) FALSE: “Blunt officials have claimed Eckersley never raised concerns about their e-mail practices…” (David Lieb, The Associated Press, November 16, 2008)

“The administration contended that a fired staff lawyer never offered advice about the governor’s policy requiring public records, including e-mails, to be retained.” (Tony Messenger, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2008)

TRUE: Rich Aubuchon stated last year “Mr. Eckersley never once voiced a concern, never once wrote an e-mail, never once talked to other employees in the office evidencing any concern that the governor’s office was not complying with the Sunshine Law or any record-retention policies.”

The requested and provided e-mails show that the former employee did not raise concerns that the governor’s office was not complying with the Sunshine Law or record retention policies.

Moreover, the former employee was not dismissed for any issue involving the Sunshine Law or record retention law.



3) FALSE: “Blunt officials failed to provide e-mails sought last year under public-records requests, in some cases denying the e-mails existed.” (David Lieb, The Associated Press, November 16, 2008)

TRUE: Many of the e-mails requested were not in the possession of the office. We had never been asked to go to the backup tapes which are a disaster recovery system that was never designed for searching or retrieval.

When asked for information from the backup tapes, we had concerns about the high costs to taxpayers, but ultimately decided to waive those fees and provided over 60,000 pages of e-mail documents at no charge to the media outlets.



4) FALSE: “The e-mails also reveal that Blunt’s former chief of staff Ed Martin orchestrated political opposition with outside groups to judicial nominees and to the state’s system for selecting judges.” (Steve Kraske and Jason Noble, The Kansas City Star, November 16, 2008)

“And the governor’s then-chief of staff denied the existence of e-mails showing he had engaged in political activities on state time.” (Tony Messenger, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2008)

“’It sure looks like an e-mail from me,’ Martin wrote that day, before justifying his use of government resources for what amounted to a political campaign.” (Tony Messenger, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2008)

“As chief of staff to Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, Ed Martin turned the office into a political operation, using his position to galvanize special-interest groups on issues such as abortion and the judiciary, hundreds of e-mails released this week show.” (Virginia Young, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2008)

TRUE: There is absolutely nothing wrong with communicating with coalition groups on issues of public policy. We communicate with coalition groups of all kinds including those who do not agree with the governor’s policies so why would we not communicate with those who agree with them?

It would be inappropriate to use state computers to raise money for political candidates, organize political events for a political candidate or seek a job with a political candidate as the former employee had done using taxpayer-funded resources. The assertion that communicating with coalition groups is the same thing as running a political operation or a political campaign out of the governor’s office is outrageous and absolutely false. We hope but do not expect that there will be the same level of outrage by the media the next time a Democrat is caught communicating with liberal groups like the Sierra Club as the record shows Attorney General Jay Nixon’s office did to encourage support for his losing position on the Boonville Bridge issue.



5) FALSE: “Last year, Martin defended his political advocacy in the governor’s office where he used a state computer on taxpayer time as ‘appropriate.’” (Virginia Young, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2008)

TRUE: This office did not defend political advocacy in the governor’s office. We have stated that there is nothing wrong with communicating with coalition groups.



6) FALSE: “Whistleblowers in the Office of Administration had told Nixon’s office that Blunt staffers tried to order that backup tapes be scheduled for destruction.” (Tony Messenger, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2008)

TRUE: This assertion has been proven untrue in depositions in this case. Blunt staffers did not order that backup tapes be scheduled for destruction and no backup tape was ever destroyed.



7) FALSE: “Eckersley appears to have been the first administration official to stipulate internally that e-mails must be saved.” (Steve Kraske and Jason Noble, The Kansas City Star, November 16, 2008)

TRUE: By his own admission the former employee copied a communications strategy memo that had already been distributed to staff by the General Counsel and sent a “boiled down” version. Missourians can read this document here, http://governor.mo.gov/9-15-07%20528pm.pdf.

The former employee was also dishonest with the chief of staff about to whom he sent this summarized memo. He did not, as he asserted, only send the summary to Ed Martin and Henry Herschel, he had sent it to others including a person outside of this office in violation of his confidentiality obligation. Missourians can see his dishonest statements here, http://governor.mo.gov/9-14-07%201257%20pm.pdf.



8) FALSE: “The e-mail records portray Eckersley as a loyal but sometimes tardy Republican foot soldier.” (Tony Messenger, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2008)

TRUE: The e-mail records requested and produced show that the former employee was not only tardy, he was reprimanded for his tardiness, admitted the reprimand was merited and told a colleague that he did not “really care too much.” Then the former employee admitted he believed his job was in jeopardy over his tardiness. Missourians can read this document here, http://governor.mo.gov/9-18-07%201105am.pdf.

The e-mail records also show that well over half of the former employee’s e-mails were for work for a private business or personal. No other employee’s e-mails in the documents requested and provided show such misuse of a state e-mail account. Misuse of state resources and state e-mail for a private business was one of the reasons the former employee was dismissed.

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