Government & Politics

Secret texting app downloaded by top staffer to Missouri’s next attorney general

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (right) announced Eric Schmitt as the state’s next attorney general earlier this month. Schmitt, Missouri’s treasurer, will replace Josh Hawley, who defeated Claire McCaskill for a U.S. Senate seat.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (right) announced Eric Schmitt as the state’s next attorney general earlier this month. Schmitt, Missouri’s treasurer, will replace Josh Hawley, who defeated Claire McCaskill for a U.S. Senate seat.

The chief of staff for Missouri’s next attorney general is drawing scrutiny after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday that he downloaded the text-message erasing app Confide.

Compounding the questions is the fact the staffer — Andrew Dziedzic — also briefly worked for Eric Greitens, the embattled former governor whose use of Confide sparked widespread criticism, an investigation by the attorney general’s office and a lawsuit alleging use of Confide violates Missouri’s open records laws.

Dziedzic is currently chief of staff to Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt, who was appointed to take over as attorney general in January when current Attorney General Josh Hawley is sworn in as a U.S. senator.

Before joining the treasurer’s office, Dziedzic worked for Greitens’ taxpayer-funded transition during the three months between the 2016 election and January inauguration. That office was criticized over its penchant for secrecy, ranging from a requirement that staff sign gag orders banning them from discussing their work publicly to several key team members using private email addresses to conduct public business.

On Monday, the Post-Dispatch reported that a text exchange between two former employees of Greitens named Dziedzic as a Confide user.

It’s unclear when he downloaded Confide or how he used it.

Dziedzic didn’t respond to questions from The Star regarding his use of Confide or whether he downloaded it while he was working for Greitens. The treasurer’s office told the Post-Dispatch that it does not use Confide “or any similar application.”

Mark Pedroli, one of the attorneys who sued Greitens over his Confide use, said Tuesday morning that he hopes Schmitt will “do the right thing and instruct his employee to give a full accounting to Missourians about his use of Confide” before he takes over the job of attorney general.

As attorney general, one of Schmitt’s responsibilities will be to enforce the state’s Sunshine Laws.

“The state cannot accept silence in this matter,” Pedroli said. “Particularly when we’re talking about a new attorney general, there can be no question marks.”

Confide allows someone to send a text message that vanishes without a trace after it is read. It also prevents someone from saving, forwarding, printing or taking a screenshot of the text message.

Greitens and 26 of his former staffers in the governor’s office had Confide accounts, sparking concern among transparency advocates that the app was being used to destroy public records and dodge Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

Hawley’s office launched an investigation into Greitens’ use of Confide, concluding there was no evidence of wrongdoing — in part because Confide ensured no evidence existed.

But Pedroli’s lawsuit uncovered text messages showing Greitens’ staff openly discussing the use of Confide not only among themselves but also with people outside the governor’s office. They also seem to show staff discussing the use of Confide to conduct public business.

One text message obtained by The Star appears to show the governor’s office had advance notice about when the attorney general’s investigation would conclude.

With Confide, messages can’t be saved, so it’s impossible to know whether former Gov. Eric Greitens and his senior staff were using it to conduct state business out of the public eye.

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