FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, October 12, 2012
Anchorage, Alaska: This morning the Alaska Supreme Court took an important step in protecting the Alaska public’s interest in transparent and open government.
In its decision in McLeod v. Parnell (attached) the Court announced that the Alaska Legislature intended emails that state employees send or receive on their private email accounts to be “public records” for the purposes of the Alaska Public Records Act. Because those emails are “public records” they now are available for public inspection and must be archived by the State archivist.
In its decision, the Alaska Supreme Court characterized Andree McLeod’s four-year effort to establish that legal principle as “an important and substantial victory.”
A characterization with which Donald Craig Mitchell, the attorney who represents Ms. McLeod, agrees.
“The Alaska Supreme Court’s decision this morning demonstrates the importance of what citizen activists such as Andree McLeod can accomplish to advance the interests of all Alaskans in ensuring that all state employees, from the governor on down, conduct official state business in a manner that at all times and through all means of communication serves the public interest,” Mitchell said.
Included in the decision, the court believes that ‘…using private email accounts [for official business] is no more an obstruction of access to public records than communicating through paper letters.’
“Further examination is necessary. Important facts bear out in released emails that I finally received by the state a year-and-a-half after my attorney appeared in front of the Supreme Court that, in fact, a strategy did exist in the Palin administration to circumvent official servers with the use of private email accounts on personal devices,” McLeod said.
McLeod continued, “The legislature must update Alaska’s public records laws in order preserve and protect the public’s right to know and inspect official records vis-à-vis recent electronic and communication technological advances.”