A government records dispute is heating up between Gov. Jon S. Corzine and New Jersey Republicans over e-mails that could shed light on his relationship with an ex-girlfriend to whom he gave millions of dollars in gifts.
The case raises a legal question that state open record laws generally do not have exact answers for: Are elected officials' e-mails open for public scrutiny like many other records?
In New Jersey, it's a debate likely to be decided in court. State Republicans are challenging Corzine's contention that some of his e-mails are private. They think his communications with ex-girlfriend Carla Katz, a powerful state labor leader, might back their contention that it's unethical for a governor to haggle over state worker contracts with a past lover whom he reportedly gave millions in gifts after they broke up.
The next step in the legal process comes Aug. 3, when Corzine is due in court to explain why the e-mails should not be public.
The idea of getting access to an official's e-mail is tantalizing because by its nature it holds potential for a scandal to be revealed. E-mail is, after all, a form where people are often unusually candid, where standard punctuation, grammar and capitalization can b 4gotten, where typing in capital letters IMPLIES URGENCY and where this :-) is a way to say you're happy.
This one will wind up in court...