Missouri governor under review over secretive messaging app

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's attorney general on Wednesday said he'll review fellow Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and some of his staff's use of a secretive app that deletes messages after they're read.

The Kansas City Star previously reported that Greitens and some of his staff have Confide accounts connected to their personal cellphones. The app deletes messages and prevents recipients from saving, forwarding, printing or taking screenshots of messages.

When asked last week by AP if he uses Confide for public business, Greitens didn't directly answer but said "we follow every rule and every law in the state of Missouri." Spokesman Parker Briden in a Wednesday statement said Missouri law only requires some records be retained, not including "transitory documents, drafts, non-decisionmaking documents, records that are not necessary to sustain administrative functions, and materials that lack substantial administrative or operational value."

Still, the Confide accounts sparked concern among some government-transparency advocates that it could be used to undermine open records laws.

"Based on what has been reported, there is very serious reason to believe that laws may be being broken and that public business may be being conducted in secret with self-destructing messages that can't even be preserved with a screenshot," said St. Louis-area Democratic Sen. Scott Sifton, who had asked Attorney General Josh Hawley to investigate potential violations.

Hawley, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, in a Wednesday letter to Sifton said his office has "opened an inquiry."

Briden in response to the review said the governor's office is "confident that this review of our records retention policy will show that we follow the law."

David Roland, director of litigation with the Freedom Center of Missouri, previously told the Kansas City Star that it's a "very, very tough legal question" over whether use of the app would violate state open records laws because of vague guidelines on how long records should be kept. The conservative nonprofit advocates for government transparency.

Sifton said questions about Confide show that lawmakers need to make sure state records laws keep up with technology, a sentiment echoed in Hawley's letter.

"As this matter and the experience of past Attorney General makes clear, legislative action may be appropriate to clarify and strengthen my Office's enforcement authority under the Sunshine Law," Hawley wrote.

Hawley's office is representing the governor's office in other legal issues, but the attorney general wrote in the letter that checking into potential records violations doesn't pose a conflict of interest. He said his office also screened the individual staffers involved in the inquiry to avoid potential ethical issues.

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