Government & Politics

Greitens and 19 staffers had secret texting app, far more than number reported to AG

Most members of Gov. Eric Greitens' taxpayer-funded staff had Confide accounts, the Governor's Office disclosed Friday.

As part of a court order, Greitens' office was forced to disclose the names and phone numbers of every staff member who downloaded or used Confide, an app that erases text messages after they are read.

The order came as part of a lawsuit filed in late December by two St. Louis attorneys who allege that Greitens and his staff used Confide to circumvent the state's open records laws.

Greitens' office disclosed that 16 current and four former staffers had Confide accounts during the governor's 17-month tenure, including Greitens himself. There are currently 31 employees in the Governor's Office.

The number of Confide users is much higher than was unearthed by Attorney General Josh Hawley, who investigated Greitens' use of Confide earlier this year and determined no evidence of wrongdoing existed.

Greitens was set to resign from office at 5 p.m. Friday.

Hawley's office determined that eight people had the app, and only five used it for government business. Responding to criticism of his inquiry into Greitens' use of Confide, Hawley has said lack of subpoena power in Sunshine Law cases hamstrung the investigation.

His spokeswoman, Mary Compton, made that point again Friday.

“This is yet another example of why the Attorney General’s Office needs subpoena authority to enforce the Sunshine Law," she said in a statement. "The Office of the Governor repeatedly refused to disclose to this Office the number or identities of the staff who used Confide.”

Mark Pedroli, one of the lawyers who sued Greitens, suggested that the Governor's Office withheld evidence from the attorney general.

"Twenty people using Confide in the Governor's Office is a far cry from the eight people offered to the Attorney General's Office," he said. "Today, we learn the truth. The Office of Governor needs to explain why they only produced eight people to the attorney general pursuant to the AGO's inquiry. This is troubling. This investigation will continue."

Greitens admitted last month that he “occasionally used Confide to communicate with members of the Office of Governor about scheduling in a manner that was consistent with the requirements of the Open Records Law.”

Besides Greitens, the official staffers who had Confide accounts are Lucinda Luetkemeyer, general counsel; Justin Smith, deputy counsel; Kristen Sanocki, deputy counsel; Jake Buxton, deputy scheduler; Logan Spana, deputy policy director; Maddie McMillian, special assistant; Mike Roche, chief of staff; Nick Maddux, deputy chief of staff; Parker Briden, press secretary; Sherri Kempf, legislative assistant; Todd Scott, legislative and policy adviser; Will Scharf, policy director; Kevin Carr, staff assistant; Jennae Neustadt, director of management and budget; and Charlie Barnes, director of advance and outreach.

Four former staffers also had Confide accounts: Caleb Jones, former deputy chief of staff; Scott Turk, former director of boards and commissions; Sarah Madden, former special counsel in charge of records requests; and Natalie Fryrear, former scheduler.