Saturday, November 03, 2007

Email, email, who's got the email?

Rumors continue swirling around the Scott Eckersley firing

Jo Mannies of The Post-Dispatch claims to have an email:

"dated Sept. 14, in which Eckersley lays out to a co-worker what he says should be the response of Blunt staffers when asked by reporters about the handling of office e-mails."


The Post-Dispatch did not provide access to that email to the public. Instead they are polling readers as to whether they believe Governor Blunt's office is obeying the law regarding emails.

Tim Hoover of the Kansas City Star reported there is an email that proves Eckersley had advised the Blunt administration about email retention but that Eckersley's attorney didn't release it. He was concerned about attorney-client privilege.

Tony Messenger of The Springfield News-Leader claims the story has legs because the Dispatch and the KC Star have picked it up. All three sources cite an email they apparently have in possession that Eckersley claims supports his allegation that he had sent emails to Blunt officials informing them of email retention policy. None of them have posted that actual email for readers to examine. In fact, and as admitted by Messenger (see: The evidence is adding up) that email proves nothing.

Messenger links an Agency Records Disposition Schedule circa 2001 from the Office of the Governor signed by the Agency Director, Carol Gilotrap. The Agency Records Disposition Schedule was approved by then Chairman of the State Records Commission, Matt Blunt on October 25, 2001. Messenger identifies this document as "the Governor's email retention policy." Mannies only cites "a separate state law" and does not link it. I wonder if policies held by one Office of the Governor are carried over to the next Office of the Governor or if each Governor is responsible for his own office's policy? Messenger seems to be using the document as proof that the Governor lied when earlier this week he said:

"Our policy is to follow the Sunshine Law, that's the policy."


Blunt said:

"The Sunshine Law provides lots of information about that (what qualifies an email for retention), it differentiates and is very specific about what is and is not a public record."


Messenger also, in "The story has legs" at his blog, wonders whether that law was rescinded by the Governor but didn't bother to confirm whether it had been or not. Messenger claims that Blunt "doesn't really want to say that," as though he is privy to what Governor Blunt either wants or does not want.

Here is what the Missouri Sunshine Law says about electronic records:

The Sunshine Law encourages public governmental bodies to maintain records in electronic formats that are accessible to the public (Section 610.029.1). Public governmental bodies are obligated to provide records in the format requested, if available (Section 610.023.3). However, when a requester demands records in a format beyond the scope of staff expertise, a body may charge for the actual rate of programming necessary to comply with the request (Section 610.026.1(2)).

Section 610.025 requires that certain e-mails sent by members of a public body be copied to the custodian or that member's public office computer. It is triggered when a member of a public body sends an electronic message dealing with public business to two or more members so that, when counting the sender, a majority of the body's members are copied on the message. Once transmitted to the custodian or the member's public office computer, the e-mail is an open record, unless it is subject to an exception in Section 610.021.*


Now, in the case of Messenger's original request, the request that started this whole affair seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Something to do with a member of the Blunt administration trying to rally support from a group OUTSIDE the Governor's office to request their promotion of a certain related policy or something? If so, according to what I just posted from the Sunshine Law, that action would NOT have triggered the copying of the electronic message to the custodian of public records because it wasn't sent to a majority of the body's members. So, while being used for possible partisan reasons it wouldn't be considered something that should be kept in public records or something the public would necessarily be interested in, UNLESS you happen to be a fervent editorial journalist bent on smearing the Governor's administration by casting undue doubt on whether they should be emailing an outside activist group from their state computer at taxpayer's expense. I hope I'm remembering this correctly, I could not find where the News-Leader website references Tony's original "controversy" over not being allowed these email messages. In fact, I can't even remember who was involved, but then since Messenger is not required to verify or substantiate his claims and allegations then why should I? I mean, I'm just a blogger, he's the editorial editor of the city's leading newspaper.

*emphasis mine

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

JH,

Do you ever sometimes feel like the little PBS goldfish that jumps into the street, into a truck, and then
gets to swim with the other fish against a mountain of water moving the other way ??

This is what you are up against trying to get to the truth of damn near anything with these people...

Jacke M. said...

Hee haw! Why, yes I do, now that you mention it. ;)