If a person is subject to the state public records act, emails are too, no matter if they are sent using a personal device or a city cellphone, former San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye told the city’s Rules Committee Wednesday.
Frye is active in transparency issues and is president of CaliforniansAware, a statewide organization that advocates for open government.
The group wants public records to include information like emails from public officials sent on personal devices or from private accounts
The organization is asking the San Diego City Council to support a measure for the June 2016 ballot, or amend the current law, to expand the public record definition.
Two previous attempts to get the city to agree to adopting an ordinance similar to this proposal never made it to the city council for a vote. It never made it past committee.
According to Frye, the City Attorney’s office has argued in court that the “public’s business that is maintained on the private accounts of city officials does not meet the definition of a record ‘retained’ by the city.” Therefore it’s not subject to the California Public Records Act.
During the meeting, the Rules Committee forwarded the proposal to the City Attorney’s office to complete an analysis of the issue. Sherri Lightner, the chair of the committee and City Council President, asked the office to “come back with proposed language” before June.
Click here to see the complete proposal from Frye and CaliforniansAware.
The proposal was supported by the San Diego Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Editor's note: J.W. August is a former board president of CaliforniansAware.