JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey said he’s dedicated to a transparent and open government after the FOX Files discovered hundreds of requests for public records, some of which could take his office nearly a year to fulfill.
According to Bailey, his office is working to fulfill 416 open Sunshine Law requests. His office said 224 of those were inherited from the previous administration.
“I want the government to be transparent,” Bailey said. “Not all requests are equal. One request might generate 10, 20, 30,000 documents, and it takes time to review those documents.”
The state’s Sunshine Law is critical to public transparency because it allows citizens to request records like salaries, emails, and contracts from government officials and public agencies.
Bailey said he’s hiring more people to keep up.
“We got two full-time staff working on this. We just brought on a third staff member that’s going to be working on this full-time. We’re dedicated to getting people their records,” he said.
On April 26, the FOX Files requested a copy of the complaints that had been submitted through the attorney general’s website. Bailey’s office replied that it would be mid-August before they could provide the records, but then sent a new letter a few days ago stating they would not be able to turnover requested records until March 21, 2024.
State Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-District 15) expressed concerns over how long it may take for the records to be turned over.
“That seems unreasonable. I don’t know why it would take a year for you to have access to that,” he said.
Koenig thinks there’s some tidying up that could be done to the timeframe given to agencies for turning over requested records.
“They have to respond with a Sunshine request within three days, which is good, but they don’t actually have to get the information out,” Koenig said. “Sometimes they need a longer time to gather, and sometimes the law is a little ambiguous on that timetable afterwards.”
Bailey’s office is the top state agency responsible for enforcing the Sunshine Law.
“The Attorney General’s Office is tasked with enforcement of the Sunshine Law and I’m dedicated to enforcing the laws as written,” Bailey said.
The attorney general said whenever there’s an election, there’s usually an increased demand for open-record requests, but understands he has to be a leader on the issue.
“We support transparency and enforcing the Sunshine Law as written. I want to get people their open records as soon as practical within the confines of us doing due diligence,” he said.
Bailey said his office does not charge people when they turn over records, when many other agencies do.
We’re told a substantial number of records requests come from out-of-state.