D.C. Open Government Coalition sues D.C. Council over use of personal email accounts

Submitted by LDieringer on Wed, 10/17/2012 - 12:52pm

From DCist:

The D.C. Open Government Coalition has filed suit against the D.C. Council, claiming that legislators' use of personal email accounts to conduct official business constituted an end-run around the public's right to dig into what the city's legislative body is up to.
 
The suit stems from the council secretary's denial of a Freedom of Information Act request by the group earlier this year on the grounds that she did not actively control or have access to those personal email accounts. The coalition says that D.C. must keep pace with other states, which have said that official business—whether conducted via official or personal email accounts—is subject to disclosure.

Read the complaint in full.

Also, from The Blog of Legal Times, see D.C. joins states grappling with public access to officials' personal email accounts

The lawsuit challenged the D.C. Council's denial of a freedom of information act request for e-mails sent to or from councilmembers' personal accounts related to public business. The plaintiff, the D.C. Open Government Coalition, alleged that the council is in violation of the city's own FOIA law.
 
Kenneth Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, said similar disputes are playing out in courts and legislative bodies across the country. To date, he said, the bulk of case law and policies have favored basing public access on content, and not ownership of an e-mail account or other technology. "If it's public business, it's public business," he said.
 
[...]
 
Laura Handman, a partner at Washington's Davis Wright & Tremaine, said that given the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life, especially for elected officials, a number of state and local governments have recognized that public records should be determined "by subject matter and what you're doing and not from where you're doing it."

Also see this from the Washington Post blog.

D.C. Open Government Coalition is a member of NFOIC.--eds.