Three years ago, San Jose adopted a policy that allows for the disclosure of elected officials’ text messages and emails regarding city business when sent from personal devices. However, this week City Council voted unanimously in closed session to appeal a judge’s ruling that would make the policy apply to all city employees.
In the past, Mayor Chuck Reed played a large role in bringing sunshine to the city rules regarding transparency. He felt strongly that communication about city business in any form should be disclosed. But Reed has since changed his tune.
Reed thinks the judge’s ruling is “too broad and sets up practical problems,” reports the San Jose Mercury News. Reed suggests that managing a small group of elected officials is an easier task. But he has concerns that managing requests for information about the city’s entire workforce is “invasive and burdensome.”
Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, tells the Merc that he’s confident the initial ruling will be affirmed, which would make the policy a set standard for San Jose.
The case will be watched statewide. Open government advocates say that the issue has become a “gaping hole” in public records law, because it was written in the “typewriter era.”