The paper is flying, people.
South Carolina government officials are reportedly being bombarded with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking access to politicians’ personal emails after disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford may have inadvertently set a new precedent for disclosure.
We wrote recently about the potential implications of Sanford’s decision to release numerous personal emails among the reams of public data he made available to reporters after disclosing his extramarital affair with Argentine lover Maria Belen Chapur. Apparently by acknowledging that he had an obligation to disclose certain public business that had been conducted on his private email address, Sanford opened the door to a new definition of “public records,” attorneys tell FITS.
Now, it appears that a number of different organizations are trying to determine whether or not any other “public business” may have been conducted on private email accounts – or for that matter what private business that may have been conducted on state accounts.
Some of the most expansive requests, we’re told, emanate from the S.C. Policy Council, which has made transparency in government one of its top priorities.
It’s no secret that most elected officials and their staffers conduct significant amounts of the public’s business “off the record,” i.e. on personal cell phones and email accounts that are not subject to FOIA requests.
It’s also no secret that state computers are routinely used to access personal email accounts – usually during government business hours.
Are these communications something taxpayers should see?
We certainly think so …