Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Blunt Defends Eckersley Firing

Gov. Matt Blunt is defending the firing of one of his staff attorneys. The governor’s chief of staff fired Springfield native Scott Eckersley deputy legal counsel late last month.

You can watch my Tuesday KY3 News @ 10 report HERE.

Eckersley says he was let go for trying to follow the office’s open record policy on saving e-mail messages. The governor says the reason was poor job performance.

Eckersley is speaking out about his firing because he says he wants to defend his character. He also says challenging the administration on its e-mail policy was what got him fired in the first place.

Eckersley's firing raises questions because it occurred about the same time that Blunt admitted his administration was deleting internal e-mail messages that Eckersley believes should have been saved as public records.

“I had pointed to an office policy that clearly contradicted the way that we were handling Sunshine requests,” said Eckersley in a telephone interview. “I believe that I was retaliated against as a result of pointing to the office policy that existed.”

Tuesday, at a news conference on a different subject, Blunt made his first public comments about Eckersley when reporters asked him about it. Blunt says the firing was appropriate.

“I think there'd be no basis to support his assertions and there were real issues with work performance and, of course, we don't allow state employees to do work for private companies on state time and on state equipment, which was occurring here,” said Blunt.

Eckersley says he did do minimal work for another company but had approval to do so. He says there wasn't a problem with his performance until he began questioning why the administration wasn't retaining many e-mail messages.

“I'd be happy to have any of my work at any point be scrutinized by anybody because I stand behind it,” said Eckersley.

The administration has since released documents on Eckersley's firing that question his personal state of mind after a breakup of a personal relationship, make unclear references to drug use, and include correspondence that was forwarded to Eckersley’s state e-mail account from a sex Web site.

“Obviously the young man in question, who I feel sorry for, is making a lot of assertions about why he's being dismissed. I think it's appropriate to dispute those assertions,” said Blunt.
But Eckersley vigorously denies those charges and says the truth will come out in court after his attorney files a defamation lawsuit against the governor and his staff in the coming weeks.

Eckersley says another legal question to be determined is whether it was legal for the administration to release all of this documentation on him.

Eckersley said he is traveling to Salt Lake City, Utah this week. He says he's using the trip to "clear his mind."

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