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Suit against Missouri governor over public records gets new life

Suit against Missouri governor over public records gets new life

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Morning after arrests

Elad Gross, a constitutional lawyer, works on his phone outside the St. Louis jail on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, as he waits to be let in to speak with some of the people who were arrested for blocking Interstate 64 the night before. A group of activists and lawyers waited outside the jail overnight working to get those arrested freed. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — A state appeals court has revived a lawsuit against Gov. Mike Parson alleging his office violated the state’s public records laws.

In a decision released Tuesday, the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals allowed the case against the Republican governor to continue.

At issue is a 2018 lawsuit filed by St. Louis lawyer Elad Gross, who is running as a Democrat for attorney general.

The suit accused Parson’s administration of violating the Sunshine Law by requiring he pay more than $3,600 for a cache of records relating to former Gov. Eric Greitens, who left office amid personal and professional scandals.

In tossing the suit last year, Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce said Parson’s administration, under Missouri law, had the discretion to charge or waive fees.

But the appeals court said Joyce erred on five of the 10 points Gross made during an appeal.

In one instance, the three-judge panel said Joyce should have first reviewed records sought by Gross to determine if any of the material should be redacted.

Greitens resigned because of scandal in his personal life and campaign apparatus. A nonprofit called A New Missouri, for example, raised $6 million in 2017 from secret donors.

A New Missouri promoted Greitens’ political career, but it did not have to adhere to campaign contribution limits, or disclosure requirements, leading to allegations that it was formed only to evade campaign finance law.

Gross faces St. Louis lawyer Rich Finneran in the Democratic primary. The winner will take on Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt in November.

“I was unraveling a web of corruption that sold Missouri to the highest bidder. Our government fought back. And We the People won,” Gross said in a statement Tuesday.

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