Court Rules That Officials’ Private Communications Not Subject to Public Records Act
A California Appeals Court ruled last week that under the Public Records Act, public agencies are not required to disclose private cell phone and email account information in response to a PRA request. The court ruled that because individual offices and employees are not subject to the PRA, agencies cannot be held responsible for those types of records.
This case was prompted when an individual submitted a PRA request to the city of San Jose, asking for any and all voicemails, emails, or text messages sent or received on private electronic devices” used by city officials and city staff regarding “any matters concerning the City of San Jose.” A trial court sided with the individual, Ted Smith, but the Court of Appeal overturned the lower court ruling. Smith’s attorney has told the press that Smith will be petitioning the California Supreme Court to review the Appeals Court decision.
The court stated that public agencies are free to adopt their own policies regarding private communications on public issues.
Read more about the ruling here.