A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday sent a lawsuit over fees charged by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s administration for an open records request back to a lower court for further consideration.
St. Louis attorney Elad Gross, a Democratic candidate for Missouri Attorney General, sued in 2018 after Parson’s administration sent him a $3,618 bill to process an open records request related to former Gov. Eric Greitens.
Parson’s office based the bill on an estimated 90 hours of staff processing time at $40 per hour.
Cole County Judge Patricia Joyce dismissed the lawsuit in July, ruling that charging the research fees does not violate the state’s Sunshine Law.
Gross raised 10 points in his appeal, and the Missouri Western District court of appeals sided with him in five of the them. On one point, the court ruled that Joyce erred in dismissing Gross’s claim that the governor’s office incorrectly charged attorneys’ research fees as a requirement to access public records.
The Missouri Press Association, the Freedom Center of Missouri, the ACLU of Missouri, and the Sunshine and Government Accountability Project contended in briefs filed in support of Gross that government’s charging attorneys fees for records increases the cost of records requests by thousands of dollars and isn’t authorized under the Sunshine Law.