God help me

This makes sense, but it’s bad form. I have no intention of saving all my emails. I get over 1,000 after spam emails a day. I suppose I could conceivably get a Gmail account just for city business. That might be the answer for everyone.

State District Judge Gena Slaughter has ruled that the city of Dallas must release e-mails requested more than 22 months ago by The Dallas Morning News, including messages from city officials’ personal accounts or hand-held devices used to conduct city business.

13 comments

  1. Doug Deal says:

    Why must everything go to an extreme. Open records acts are good things, but when they are expanded beyound anything that remotely resembles common sense, it is silly.

    Why not force Dallas city government to transcribe their thoughts as well, if they ever even just thought about city business?

  2. heroV says:

    These are e-mails relating to city business. Why shouldn’t they be saved? You wouldn’t throw out a letter you sent as a city official, would you?

    In any case, I wouldn’t use a personal e-mail account for city business anyways. If the city doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with archiving such correspondence and filtering spam for e-mail accounts they provide to city officials, then it’s not my fault if a correspondence cannot be produced 22 months later.

  3. EAVDad says:

    The lesson is this — don’t send work emails from a personal address. It’s that simple. If you work in an area subject to Open Records, then conduct your business in the open. If you don’t want a record of it via email, pick up the phone.

    This isn’t an extreme. This is a case where city officials were using personal email as a way to get around Open Records laws. That’s wrong.

    My advice to folks is this: Don’t put anything in (work) email that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the AJC (or Macon Telegraph!)

  4. Doug Deal says:

    So,

    Then if you send a note from your personal e-mail to your wife, telling her that you are going to be late coming back from the council meeting on X, is that city business?

    Is an opinion expressed as an American citizen who happens to be an elected official in an email to a friend then city business, if the opinion is related to the city?

    It is clear that all emails that one person acting in the capacity of a city official (elected or appointed) should be saved, but even elected officials have a personal life outside of being mayor, city council member or what have you.

    What is lost on your three is that this is in regard to emails on PERSONAL accounts, not from work accounts. A little reading comprehension goes a long way.

  5. EAVDad says:

    Doug, I would suggest some reading comprehension on your end. My post says they were personal email addresses.

    However, these were NOT emails to a spouse or personal opinions. This was about city issues.

    If you read about this case, the city officials in Dallas were using their personal emails to talk about official city business. But by doing it on personal emails (and blackberries) they thought they were exempt from Open Records law. Not true.

  6. BlackfinDay says:

    Doug, the common sense answers to your questions would be:
    1. No. Telling your wife your running late (and her ensuing angry response) is personal, not government business.

    2. Well, it depends. If the opinion expressed is “I’m going to vote for/against proposal X because in my opinion it is good/bad for the city” then its probably government business. If the opinion expressed is “Councilwoman X is a sweet old lady, but she really bores me to tears with her pre-1940’s analogies,” then I think that’s clearly not government business.

    This is not really anything new in my eyes. Friends who work in government have told me about express policies of the various government IT departments – ALL county/city/whatever email is kept forever and is subject to open records requests, and should therefore be used for government business only. Use your personal webmail for forwarding that Badger, Mushroom, Snake youtube link.

    I think the issue in Dallas is that the newspaper had (in their mind) valid suspicions that government officials were hiding something by conducting official business on personal email accounts. It would be the same as if the city council tried to thwart open meetings requirements by meeting secretly at someone’s house to discuss public policy/government business.

  7. Doug Deal says:

    I agree with you that all government email should be subject to open record laws, blackfin, so I am not sure why you bring that up as a point of contention.

    However, I think elected representatives have a right to privacy, just like anyone else. Unless the person is acting in an official capacity, city business is being conducted, orders are being given, policy is being discussed, and it should not fall under any type of open records act.

    In Erick’s original post he was mentioning deleting spam. Requiring every elected official to save everything from spam to notes to their wife out of fear of some open records request is ludicrous. If you think that is reasonable, then we will never agree on this issue.

  8. BlackfinDay says:

    I’m not saying that at all.

    The thing in Dallas doesn’t appear to be a fishing expedition, but the conclusion of a investigation by the paper into potential mis-dealings and attempts to cover them up.
    As for the SPAM/notes from the wife, I’m not saying (nor is the Texas Court, IMHO) that every elected official is required to keep every personal email (or SPAM). Nor should they particularly worry about their mail-saving habits as it concerns their personal email, just the ones concerning government business.

    And, continuing on the reading comprehension theme, the Texas Court didn’t impose penalties for deleting messages, it ordered that emails contained on non-government servers had to be turned over to the press, if their subject matter was government business.

    The fact that certain government agencies now have policies about retaining /forwarding such emails is sort of moot.

    As for Erick’s inbox overflow… Well, I’m not running for office and probably never will, but if I did, I probably would set up a separate gmail account for government/constituent emails. And save them all. Just so no one could ever accuse me of hiding the ball.

  9. EAVDad says:

    No one is saying elected reps (or city employees) don’t have a right to privacy, they do. But not when it comes to the official capacity of what they do. Obviously there is a little gray area, but not much.

    Bottom Line: If it’s related to your job, keep it off personal email or risk the consequences. Since I deal with this issue a lot, my advice to folks is if they have to send something from their personal email that is about their job, then “cc” your work email into that note. Makes it nice and simple.

    And also, Doug, this ruling does not say their entire personal email file is subject to Open Records. It’s only emails related directly to city business. And as for the “saving” thing — they needn’t worry. Email providers save everything.

  10. Erick says:

    EAVDad, I do agree with you. My understanding is that I will get a city issued lap top and email account. It is my intention to use that solely for election issues.

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