Tuesday, November 22

Emails are public record

Say what you will about the Occupy Columbia movement, but one of the attorneys representing the protesters stumbled upon something that should bother us all.  Governor Nikki Haley and her staff routinely delete taxpayer paid for email messages to one another.  

Now we all delete emails.  Most of our email inboxes are filled with junk emails ranging from schemes to get us to deposit money to get money to things that tell us how to have better sex lives.  

But, in this age, government emails are public records.  Emails are the typed memos of yesterday that give the public and the press an idea about how decisions are made in government and how state government officials react to events of the day.  The people are entitled to have such emails saved and available for public scrutiny. 

We now know that Governor Haley and her people delete their emails to one another.  Such is self serving and an insult to the people of South Carolina.  It is especially insulting when one considers how Governor Haley ran a campaign promising open and accountable state government. Frankly put, deleting emails slaps the face of every South Carolinian who voted for Governor Haley thinking she would be open. 

Perhaps Governor Haley and her people are just ignorant. But, one thing is clear.  The taxpayers of South Carolina pay for the government internet access and the emails in question.  As such, they are entitled to know the contents of such emails that they pay for. 

If Governor Haley and her staff have things that must be deleted, let them email via private accounts that they pay for.  Otherwise, deleting official emails plays into the hands of conspiracy theorists, activists and others.  In other words, it is just plain politically dumb.  

If you doubt that, look at what deleting official emails has done to Governor Haley's position on the Occupy Columbia crowd.  Haley had ordered them to leave State House grounds by 6PM.  Now she is backing off that stand as it becomes obvious that the Governor who promised to be so open is not that open after all. 

Chances are there is nothing sinister in the deleted emails.  But, the act of deleting them begs the question of what was in them.  Such a trivial thing can derail a Governor's agenda.  It also shows a marked ignorance of the world we live in today.

For we live in a world in which emails and text messages are the accepted form of communication.  When such things are deleted by government officials, it is as offensive to the public as destroying files and memos.  And it is certainly not the stuff a Governor and Administration committed to openness does.  
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