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Thread: access to email as public records?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    access to email as public records?

    Local governments certainly have various practices in dealing with public information requests, particularly by media sources. Often these are aimed at meeting the state statutes, or at least a particular interpretation of relevant laws. The jurisdiction I currently work for goes as far as allowing reporters access to email messages.

    This practice certainly impacts the way staff performs its work. It is generally not our intent to hide away information from the public, however planning does involves some element of strategy and when communications about particular projects are leaked to the press our position can be weakened. Given that email has become the preferred- sometimes exclusive- communication method at our workplace I feel like allowing wide-open access to it is akin to wire-tapping our cubicles. I may be able to understand allowing access to email through a formal request for particular information but I find the current policy of allowing unfettered access to our server and browsing functions to be disturbing. Am I wrong in this assessment? How is this issue handled in your workplace? thanks

  2. #2
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    It has to be part of a FOIA request and they provide the search words, we print it out, charge for copying - we do have a newspaper that requests to be copied on all emails going out to the full Town Council, so that's a standing request

    so don't email anything you wouldn't email to the editor of your local newspaper...

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Really, your state law should cover what is a protected record and what is not. Our law is very vague, and cities have scrambled. We generally deny requests unless they are specifically related to a development. We would release the email in those cases, but would block out names.

    it is a good idea to not put anything in an email that you wouldn't state in a public meeting though.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian solarstar's avatar
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    You already know Florida has that wonderful sunshine law - our e-mails and even my posts on Cyburbia are open and available (so yes, I'm careful what I put in writing). One of our local papers make a public records request for everything that was pertaining to a certain development, including all e-mails, and that really brought this home quickly. Even if joking, we make sure it's something we wouldn't mind seeing on the front page the next day!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by solarstar View post
    You already know Florida has that wonderful sunshine law - our e-mails and even my posts on Cyburbia are open and available (so yes, I'm careful what I put in writing). One of our local papers make a public records request for everything that was pertaining to a certain development, including all e-mails, and that really brought this home quickly. Even if joking, we make sure it's something we wouldn't mind seeing on the front page the next day!
    Actually, I think this interpretation of the sunshine law goes to far and does not specifically address email.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian solarstar's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    Actually, I think this interpretation of the sunshine law goes to far and does not specifically address email.

    I wish our attorneys agreed, but they believe everything done for work purposes (even our personal e-mail at home if it is with another employee about work) is Sunshine. Voice mail is the same way, but we don't usually save those. I've very conscious of this, and it certainly has an influence on the work product.

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