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FL Official: I Don't Email Because of Open Records Laws

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, April 29 2011

It seems a bit curious that, as part of the evolution of our political transparency culture, its become generally unembarrassing for public officials to admit that they don't use email simply because they don't want those emails to get caught up in open records proceedings. The St. Petersburg Times' Michael C. Bender reports on the case of one powerful e-mail avoiding state official:

When U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's office tried to contact Gov. Rick Scott's top lieutenant, Mary Anne Carter offered her cell number, her state e-mail address and a warning.

"I rarely check and almost never respond to work e-mail because of the open records law," Carter wrote from her private e-mail account.

The admission stunned an open government advocate who said it was a chilling insight into an administration that has created roadblocks to Scott's own goal of accountability.

Scott's spokesman disputed any problem.

(For what it's worth, Nelson's a Democrat, and Scott a Republican. I don't know enough about Florida politics to know about the nuances of their relationship, but at least we know that this wasn't some intra-party zone of trust Carter thought she was speaking in.)

Other political figures have talked this way. One that comes to mind is Bill Clinton. Back in February, he mentioned that he only sent two emails while President of the United States, both of them innocuous, because he "figured it was OK if Congress subpoenaed those." People seem to nod their heads at such talk, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. From the officials' perspective, of course, it makes a lot of sense. But it does seem kinda odd that there isn't much of a shame factor today in admitting that you're intentionally skirting laws that are meant to lead to good government.