All About Ethics Blog
Open Government; Private Email
The Center's Public Sector Roundtable met recently to discuss whether email sent from a private account by a public official should be part of the public record, and if so, under what circumstances. In a summary of the event, Center Web writer/editor Elliot Zanger outlines a pending California Supreme Court Case on the issue:
The Roundtable looked specifically at the case of City of San Jose v. Superior Court (2014) to discuss the matter. Initially the Santa Clara County Superior Court found that private emails (and text messages) were subject to disclosure. However, the Sixth District of California overturned the decision, "finding that the PRA does not require public access to communications between public officials using exclusively private cell phones or email accounts."
At present, the state awaits a final ruling from the California Supreme Court. If the Sixth District's ruling is upheld, it could create a huge loophole for all public officials, as they would be entitled to conduct all business on private phones and email accounts with complete confidentiality. Privacy would be maintained, but at the risk of the general public losing the transparency it deserves.
Participants also discussed the burdens on local governments from public records requests and how to balance that with the duty to be transparent.
Photo: Presenters at the Roundtable: Caroline Lee, Hanson Bridgett; Hana Callaghan, Ethics Center; Julie Sherman, Hanson Bridgett