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Archive of posts tagged Charles Boddy

Lawrence, Mass. official seeks city councilor’s personal emails

By Colman Herman, contributing writer, CommonWealth magazine

Emails dealing with public business sent or received by public 
officials from their personal email accounts are public records, 
according to a ruling by the Massachusetts secretary of state.

Frank Bonet, personnel director for Lawrence, asked the city for 
copies of all emails related to city business that were sent or 
received by City Councilor Marc Laplante from his personal email 
account. Bonet tells me that he suspected that Laplante was doing a 
number on his character in the emails

When the city failed to respond, Bonet filed an appeal with Secretary 
of State William F. Galvin, who oversees the Massachusetts Public 
Records Law.

”You stated that the city has no access or control of Councilor 
Laplante’s personal email account and thus has no records responsive 
to Mr. Bonet’s request,” Shawn Williams, Galvin’s supervisor of public 
records, wrote to Lawrence City Attorney Charles Boddy. “If a town 
official creates or receives an email record, and that record relates 
to the work of the individual in his/her official capacity, then the 
record is considered public and subject to disclosure, regardless of 
whether it was made or received on a city email account or personal 
email account.”

Williams ordered the city to search for the records Bonet was seeking 
and to turn what they find over to him or to claim one of the numerous 
exemptions available in the public records law. But Bonet claims the 
city ignored the order. Boddy begs to differ – he claims he told 
Bonet that the “associated cost would be quite expensive,” but he 
never heard back from him.

It is not uncommon for public officials to try to hide behind the 
claim that their personal emails, even when doing the public’s 
business, are not public records – most notably, Sarah Palin, former 
governor of Alaska, and John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate. 
The Supreme Court of Alaska ruled that Palin had to turn over her 
personal emails that dealt with the people of Alaska’s business.

The take home: Those seeking public records need to explicitly state 
that their requests include searching personal email accounts if such 
accounts have been used to carry out the public’s business.