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State House member and Attorney General candidate files lawsuit against MO Ethics Commission

By Marshall Griffin, KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – A lawsuit has been filed against the Missouri Ethics Commission over its decision to conduct hardship hearings behind closed doors.

The hearings are the result of the commission's decision to require candidates to return campaign contributions that exceed limits reinstated by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Candidates can claim hardships if they want to try to keep over-the-limit donations, but those hearings are closed to the public.

State Representative Margaret Donnelly (D, Richmond Heights) filed the suit Wednesday in Cole County Circuit Court in Jefferson City.

"This whole process is so secretive that the commission will not even tell you if anyone has requested a hardship hearing...there's no way to know what the commission is doing, and I think that the public should be outraged," Donnelly said.

Donnelly is also seeking the Democratic nomination for Missouri Attorney General next year. She says the actions of the Ethics Commission violate the state's Sunshine law.

"It does not matter whether there is only one person seeking a hardship or a hundred people seeking a hardship hearing, these hearings must be open to the public," Donnelly said.

Bob Connor, Executive Director of the Missouri Ethics Commission, says he hasn't seen the suit yet, and has no comment at this time.