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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Couple of E-Mail Stories to Pass Along...

E-mail continues to bedevil transparency, as these stories demonstrate.

In Wilmington, N.C., the city is making sweeping changes to its employee e-mail policies after a StarNews inquiry uncovered significant violations of state public records laws.

The StarNews found that city council members and many top-ranking city employees routinely shielded e-mails from a public server by marking “private” in subject lines. The e-mails included discussions about important and controversial city issues, such as the annexation of Monkey Junction, the downtown convention center, the police helicopter, lawsuits against the city and complaints about city services.

The story here, and the database of all 36,000 "private" city e-mails here.

And in Wisconsin, The state Senate will review its e-mail use and retention policies after a lawsuit uncovered how employees in one senator's office used personal accounts for state business, a spokeswoman said this week.

Carrie Lynch, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, said some employees use private accounts when they work from home rather than logging into the state system because it is faster and more convenient.

Lynch said the practice would likely be allowed to continue, but a new policy could advise staff members how to make sure the records are maintained for public access.

"This has never really come up before," she said. "Now that it has, we'll definitely take a look at drafting a policy that would accommodate this to ensure that everyone knows the rules from here on out."

She said the review would also consider whether legislative offices must ask the Legislative Technology Services Bureau to check its backup system for records when served with an open records request.

Both issues have been highlighted by a lawsuit brought by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin that claims Sen. Dan Kapanke failed to turn over public records about two events in response to its request. Kapanke's chief of staff, Rose Smyrski, testified last week she routinely used a Yahoo account for work at nights and on weekends.

Story here.

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