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Alaska Beat

Alaska Supreme Court OK's private email for state business

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published October 12, 2012

According to The Associated Press (via the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner), the Alaska Supreme Court has ended a public records dispute that had been simmering since the Palin administration brought it to a boil. On Friday, the high court chose to uphold a lower court's decision that would not bar state officials from using private email accounts while conducting state business.

The dispute arose after it was revealed in 2008 that then-Gov. Sarah Palin's administration was conducting state-related business via personal email accounts. Activist Andree McLeod submitted a records request for all of those private emails, including ones sent between Palin and her husband Todd. McLeod also sued the state, saying that the governor's office should be required to save emails related to business as public records, regardless of what kind of account the messages were sent and received through.

The state of Alaska argued in its defense that state officials should be able to determine what is or is not subject to public disclosure, emphasizing that the use of non-state email accounts for state-related business can, and should, only be banned by the Legislature, not by a court. The AP reports:

Superior Court Judge Patrick McKay agreed. He interpreted public records as state agency records preserved or appropriate for preservation under the records management act. But he also later made clear that if a state employee deliberately does not preserve a document that should be saved he or she is breaking the law.

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