Friday, March 22, 2013

City Councilors' City-Related Emails & Texts Public Records, Calif. Judge Rules

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The San Jose City Council  at its meeting next week will address whether to appeal a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge's ruling this month that the councilors' city business-related emails and text messages from their personal accounts must be disclosed under California's Public Records Act ("CPRA") [Govt. Code Secs. 6250-6276.48].

According to an Associated Press article, the ruling by the presiding judge in a lawsuit brought by environmentalist Ted Smith subjects the councilors and other elected and public officials to CPRA, meaning that they must retain records of city business-related communications on their private devices and produce the data on request. Under Sec. 6252(e) of the Act, records include all public business-related communications, "regardless of physical form or characteristics, including any writing, picture, sound or symbol, whether paper...magnetic or other media." The CPRA includes electronic records as subject to public review (Sec. 6253.9(a)(g)).

San Jose officials are worried the judge's decision could extend to the personal email and social media accounts of the city's more than 5,000 employees, which would compliance with CPRA onerous and pose invasion of privacy problems.

The AP article reported that 26 states consider private emails about government-related affairs public records subject to disclosure.
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