Private Message or Public Record?

Government transparency efforts (or lack thereof) are back in the public record hot-seat as states get heat from transparency advocates around their use of private email accounts, disappearing text apps and lack of urgency to respond to public record requests.

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Featured

Kentucky officials can’t hide public business using private email accounts, judge says

A judge ruled Tuesday [Jan. 25] that state officials cannot withhold emails about public business under the Kentucky Open Records Act simply by sending them through their personal accounts on private devices.

“The court admonishes state employees, officials and volunteers from using privately owned devices and accounts to conduct state business. However, the ultimate responsibility with enforcement rests with state agencies,” Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate wrote.

Wingate ruled in an open records appeal involving the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Citing open records decisions by Attorney General Daniel Cameron and one of his predecessors, Jack Conway, Fish & Wildlife said the state’s public records disclosure law does not require state agencies to produce documents stored by officials on their own private devices.

“The personal emails/texts of commission members are not considered public records to be retained by the department,” Fish & Wildlife replied to the advocacy group last August.

However, Wingate took exception to that approach in his decision on Tuesday [Jan. 25]. He also questioned why Fish & Wildlife is overseen by commissioners who are not assigned state government email accounts to conduct public business.

Read More | Lexington Herald Leader

2021 Public Records Year-in-Review: Data Trends and Guidance for 2022

Join GovQA on Tuesday, February 15th for a webinar looking back at 2021: Data Trends and Guidance for 2022.

During the year-in-review session, we’ll cover data from four benchmark sources critical to understanding the current and future state of public records processing. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of these benchmarks and how to use the data to plan for 2022 and beyond.

Learn more and Register >>>

LEGISLATION

Florida Bill inspired by a murder suicide tragedy would limit public access to certain autopsy records

HB 1513 would prevent autopsy results of children killed in domestic violence cases from being released to the public.

“I think it’s a critical step in protecting children. Not only the children that died from violence but also the children who could see those pictures,” said Sherry Kitchens, President and CEO of Child Advocacy Center.

Calvert said this bill does not allow for an exception, something Florida’s public records law usually includes.

The bill passed in the Senate unanimously.

It has two more committee stops in the House of Representatives before it reaches the floor of the house.

Read More | WCJB News

COMPLIANCE

Maryland governor uses disappearing messages app, claims public records law doesn’t apply

In December, the Washington Post revealed that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was using an application to communicate with his political aides and advisers that automatically deletes messages after 24 hours, despite those records potentially being subject to requests under Maryland’s open records law.Hogan claims that he is not conducting public business in his Wickr communications, and therefore the messages are not subject to Maryland’s open records law.

Under the Maryland Public Information Act, any citizen is able to submit a request to review and obtain copies of public records. The law defines a “public record” as “the original or any copy of any documentary material that is made by the unit or an instrumentality of the State or of a political subdivision or received by the unit or instrumentality in connection with the transaction of public business; and is in any form, including … a computerized record or correspondence.”

Read More | Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press

LITIGATION

Appeals court upholds ruling that St. Louis circuit attorney violated Sunshine Law

The Missouri Court of Appeals at St. Louis on Tuesday [Jan. 25] upheld a judge’s ruling against the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office for failing to respond to a lawsuit that alleged violations of the state’s open records law.

The appeals court’s unanimous ruling said Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner’s appeals had “no merit.” She had challenged St. Louis Circuit Judge Christopher McGraugh’s ruling and $5,000 penalty for refusing to produce records and respond in time to a January 2020 lawsuit filed by conservative journalist John Solomon.

“Government transparency is crucial for a self-governing society,” said Solomon’s lawyer Dave Roland of the Freedom Center of Missouri. “So in this particular situation, Kim Gardner is the top law enforcement official in the city of St. Louis, and citizens absolutely needed to be able to know what her office was doing and why it was making some of the decisions it was making.”

Read More | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

PEER RESOURCE

PiPRPodcast Episode 8: Public Records Cybersecurity and Data Governance Priorities and Best Practices for Counties

In the latest installment of GovQA’s Peers in Public Records Podcast (PiPRPodcast), Chief Evangelist Jen Snyder speaks with National Association of Counties (NACo) CIO Rita Reynolds about 2022 priorities in county government, best practices related to counties, and ideas on how to improve organizational processes. As the complexity of open records increases and cloud-based solutions and data governance become more important, counties are tasked with revisiting their existing public records policies and processes to strengthen cybersecurity and mitigate risk.

Listen in on this informative conversation and learn how to apply these ideas in your agency.

Listen to Episode 8 of the PiPRPodcast

Read More | GovQA – Now Part of Granicus

GovQA's Upcoming Events

GovQA’s hosts and moderates events to create and expand opportunities for state and local government agency members to discuss the challenges they face.

ARMA Chicago: Changes in RIM 

Public Records Solutions Webinar: Cost Reduction & Cost Recovery

2021 Public Records Year-in-Review: Data Trends and Guidance for 2022

Clerks Public Records Virtual Roundtable

See All Upcoming Events

The Peers in Public Records Newsletter (formerly FOIA News) is a bi-monthly e-newsletter brought to you by GovQA. It is a collection of the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives, shared stories, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to peers@govqa.com.

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