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Missouri state auditor Nicole Galloway

Missouri state auditor Nicole Galloway explains why she has launched a special task force to monitor the financial health of Missouri's rural hospitals during an interview withe business reporter Samantha Liss on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, at the Post-Dispatch. Photo by Laurie Skrivan | lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY • A 13-point open records request volleyed into the state auditor’s office by a GOP-aligned group is an attempt to “intimidate” and “obstruct” efforts to review state agencies, Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, said Thursday.

Galloway said the Missouri Alliance For Freedom last month “discontinued” requests filed earlier this year for public records — and filed a new, 13-point request. The move came two weeks before Galloway’s office said it was scheduled to deliver “thousands of documents” to the group.

The alliance, a 501(c)(4) group not required to disclose its donors, fired back on Thursday — saying Galloway is the obstructionist.

“The Auditor’s attacks on MAF are designed to distract from the substantive issues at hand,” said Ben Hurst, an attorney representing the alliance. The Alliance for Freedom sued Galloway’s office in July, saying she had refused to turn over emails which are public under the state’s Sunshine Law.

The Alliance for Freedom originally sought emails and documents connected to the auditor’s probe of the Department of Revenue and its slow processing of tax refunds, among other things, including all communications from Galloway since she took office in 2015.

Hurst said Galloway has not turned over any text messages, which he contends are public record, and has turned over only emails sent after September 2016.

“MAF has sued the Auditor to challenge her repeated and brazen refusal to produce public records,” Hurst said in a statement. “It intends to continue to pursue all available legal remedies to enforce her compliance with the law.”

Galloway’s spokeswoman, Steph Deidrick, said in an email that “we have turned over all communications to and from the State Auditor for the period requested that were not protected or closed by law. This includes e-mails to and from the auditor.”

She did not immediately respond when asked to confirm Hurst’s accounting of what the auditor had not turned over, and if the office believed text messages were closed record.

Galloway, in a news release, said her office has so far turned over 24,000 documents, with no cost to the Alliance for Freedom.

The Alliance for Freedom asked Galloway’s office to suspend processing of its original requests to focus on one made on Nov. 14. Because of that, on Wednesday, Galloway’s taxpayer-paid legal team moved in Cole County Circuit Court to dismiss the Alliance for Freedom’s lawsuit. They also want to indefinitely stop a discovery request by the alliance.

“This sudden disinterest in records previously requested strongly suggests this lawsuit is not about obtaining information,” Galloway said in a statement. “Instead, it appears to be a deliberate effort to intimidate the State Auditor and obstruct a thorough review of state agencies.

“We will continue to comply with their additional requests and remain committed to transparency,” Galloway added.

The new request seeks a forensic image of each of Galloway’s state-provided cellphones, all backup files on each phone, billing records for each phone, any correspondence within the office related to the group’s original requests, and any correspondence related to the new request.

The Kansas City-based Missouri Alliance for Freedom has said it favors limited government, which means citizens must be able to access public documents to oversee what the government is doing.

State records list Kristen Blanchard Ansley, the former acting executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, as the group’s president. The Graves Garrett law firm, which is representing the nonprofit, is run by Todd Graves, chairman of the Missouri GOP and an ally of Gov. Eric Greitens.

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Jack Suntrup covers state government and politics for the Post-Dispatch.