Public Record Requests Should Benefit From Judge’s Ruling
By Emerson Drake
It may not seem like a big deal to most people but Friday’s ruling by Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg should change the way Modesto responds to Public Record Requests (PRR) regarding emails and texts. Several times in the past we’ve requested emails from Council members through the city only to have the request denied by Modesto City Attorney Susanna Acala Wood. She used a unique measuring criteria when it comes to email.
Her responses in the past have been, unless a council member prints an email and uses it as a reference for information in a conversation with other council members then it doesn’t meet the threshold for a response to a PRR. Modesto as a rule deletes emails in 30 days. They say it’s because they need the space on their servers. From the judge’s ruling it appears Modesto will be arranging for larger servers. Judge Kleinberg also ruled private text messages are obtainable by the public. Hopefully Modesto will start saving the emails for longer periods of time and will stop disallowing access to them.
I should take this opportunity to say former Councilman Brad Hawn was always forthcoming with his emails when they were requested. But he was the Lone Ranger on this issue.
KTVU TV SAN JOSE, Calif. —
A Northern California judge has ruled that private text messages, emails and other electronic communications sent and received by San Jose officials about city affairs are public records.
The ruling Friday in Santa Clara County has the potential to settle a long-simmering legal debate in California over access to such records.
The state’s Public Record Acts and other laws require communications of elected officials and other public officials on public issues to be retained and turned over upon request.
Since the advent of email, activists and others in the state have been battling with officials at all levels of government over whether public issues discussed on private devices with personal accounts are covered by the Public Records Act. Similar legal battles and political debates have sprung up across the country as well.