Access to Council emails, private account policy sought

  D.C. Councilmembers who use private email accounts to conduct public business shouldCouncil Chair Phil Mendelson make those messages available under the Freedom of Information Act, the D.C. Open Government Coalition stated Aug. 9.

  The Coalition asked Council Chairman Phil Menelson to reverse an earlier ruling refusing to disclose emails because the Council does not have "possession or control" over any messages sent from non-government accounts. "It would eviscerate public-records laws if elected officials could circumvent their reach simply by doing their work on private email accounts," wrote James A. McLaughlin on behalf of the Coalition.

The D.C. OGC also asked Mendelson to adopt a policy against using private email to conduct public business, consistent with Mayor Vincent Gray's policy for government employees announced July 10, 2012.

The Coalition filed a FOIA request for emails concerning public business but sent from private accounts in March 2012. The Council responded that the records were "not among the public records of the District of Columbia." This position, McLaughlin wrote, is contrary to the practice in numerous other jurisdictions including New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois.