Starting off with the good news, we’re delighted that at least one American governor–Gov. Phil Bredesen in Tennessee appears to have ably, competently and without fuss or expense complied with an open records request for 4 days of emails as part of the Sunshine Blogger Project. Congratulations, Gov. Bredesen, and thank you to Ben Cunningham of Taxing Tennessee for filing this request.
Elsewhere, the news is less encouraging.
In Hawaii, Gov. Linda Lingle’s office gave a mixed response to blogger Ian Lind: Some emails were delivered, but not in a format that is easily translatable into a more common format. And, a number of documents were withheld under a claim of privilege. Indeed, there is a 60-page log about the emails that were withheld. Bearing in mind that Ian only asked for 4 days of emails (and 2 of those days were a Saturday and a Sunday), that seems like a lot of emails to withhold.
In Kansas, blogger Bob Weeks of Wichita Liberty earned front page/Sunday coverage in the Wichita Eagle related to his request for 4 days of email from Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius: Open-records requests can spell high fees. Gov. Sebelius’ office wanted $1,350 for those emails. Reporter Dion Lefler does a great job with this story. Congratulations, Bob!
In New York, we’re interested to note that our Sunshine blogger there, at Suitably Flip, asked for 4 days of e-mail for the period covering February 9-12, right before the now-famous Eliot Spitzer assignation. Perhaps this is why that gubernatorial office responded to Flip by asking him to define what he meant by a “gubernatorial e-mail”. Time will tell.
Even without the help of active bloggers, information about how America’s governors do on the open records/e-mail test is becoming more well-known.
For example, in Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt has indicated that it will cost $541,000 to comply with a request for that office’s emails. The word “hugely exorbitant” is being bandied about.
“The governor’s office, press office, to bypass the public records laws, they ask the second you e-mail them anything, to kill it, then kill it again out of your trash so it doesn’t exist,” said Debbie Crane. “That’s what they tell all the public affairs people, that they don’t want to create any public records.”