The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

March 19, 2009
Private emails or public records in Mayor Kevin Johnson's office?

The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday celebrated California's "Sunshine Week: Your Week to Know."

But they didn't just celebrate.  They took an important action.  In setting a new policy to handle private-sector volunteer/consultants acting as de facto employees in the mayor's office, the council established a new public records policy.

Here's an example: A volunteer/consultant acting as Mayor Kevin Johnson's public information officer, Steven Maviglio, used to send out emails regarding city business on a private account.

The new policy requires professional volunteer/consultants such as Maviglio "to have and always use City email addresses when communicating about City business."  That policy took effect immediately, on Tuesday, so we look forward to communicating with Maviglio on his new city email account.

Further, the California Public Records Act is unclear about whether the emails, text messages, voicemails and other writings produced on non-City equipment and property are public records.  Well, Sacramento's new policy explicitly states that any writings that would be city public records if produced by city employees or consultants would be public records if produced by the new professional volunteer/consultants.  Amen to that.

So the sun shines a little brighter in Sacramento.

Update:  Steven Maviglio has requested that the private email account that he had been using to conduct city business (and that I had included in an earlier version of this posting) not be made public, so I've taken it down.  However, Maviglio writes (from his private account) that, "I dont have an official city account yet."  So how should members of the public who want to contact the mayor's public information officer by email do so?  What email address should they use? 

Update2: As a test of his commitment to transparency during this Sunshine Week, Mayor Johnson should come out and say whether the public should be able to communicate by email with his public information officer. It is odd, to say the least, that the public currently cannot contact by email the "public" information officer who does most of his communications by email.  

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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