Rep. Anderson Misunderstands Sen. Sutton’s Public-Records Proposal as Threat to Personal Privacy

Senator Billie Sutton’s (D-21/Burke) proposals to make state e-mails public records and preserve fiscal documents for at least ten years will get further discussion from the Government Operations and Audit Committee on December 18, a month before the 2018 Session gets into full swing. The Democratic candidate for governor got support from Republican Senator Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) and Rep. Wayne Steinhauer (R-9/Hartford) at yesterday’s GOAC hearing. But making e-mails public record gives Rep. David Anderson (R-16/Hudson) the heebie-jeebies:

Rep. David Anderson
Rep. David Anderson

Rep. David Anderson, R-Hudson, said he saw the general value of emails becoming available but worried they could reach into personal areas that he said shouldn’t be open.

“I don’t want every minute of every day of my life public,” Anderson said. “All that’s going to do is shut down communications” [Bob Mercer, “Lawmakers Want Public’s Help to Thwart Future Scandals,” Watertown Public Opinion, 2017.10.07].

Hey, Rep. Anderson! Read Senator Sutton’s proposal. It doesn’t say anything about making every minute of your life public. It refers to “Correspondence, memoranda, calendars or logs of appointments, working papers, and records of telephone calls of public officials or employees,” which SDCL 1-27-1.5 includes in its lengthy list of documents created on the taxpayers’ dime that taxpayers can’t see.

When I’m teaching for public schools, I write several e-mails a day concerning school business. Short of confidential student records (which is the first exemption provided by SDCL 1-27-1.5, and which Senator Sutton’s proposal correctly does not change), I restrict my use of school e-mail to topics that could otherwise be shown to members of the public without giving up any personal privacy. If I want to discuss private personal matters, I don’t do it on my school e-mail, on my school computer, or on school time.

Rep. Anderson, Senator Sutton’s proposal poses no danger to your personal privacy. Just don’t send your love notes or shop Amazon through the state server.

10 Responses to Rep. Anderson Misunderstands Sen. Sutton’s Public-Records Proposal as Threat to Personal Privacy

  1. David Newquist

    Stupid does get tiresome. I

  2. Roger Elgersma

    If every minute of ones public life should be open, then we will know if he is honest. Why would he not want us to know if he is honest? This is not about every minute of his private life. Using word games to cover up corruption is corrupt in itself.

  3. This will be the boogieman the legislature will use to justify knocking this down, wait and see.

  4. Tim, do we need to knock that bogeyman down by specifying in the language of Sutton’s bill that we are referring to correspondence created in the course of/pertaining to official duties, using state resources?

  5. Donald Pay

    This is really a no-brain proposal. Many other states have similar requirements. Corruption is very ingrained there, so don’t expect movement on this.

  6. Here’s a thought: I’ve worked in classrooms where the teacher has software that allows remote viewing of the screens of every student’s classroom computer and remote access to the files and applications on each student’s computer. How about we install similar viewing software on every legislator’s publicly provided laptop, then place the feeds from their screens on, so that citizens can view live what their legislators are doing online?

  7. mike from iowa

    Master, what are you thinking? You want pro-life wingnuts to voluntarily incriminate themselves when they email the little mistress to get the bundle of unwanted joy aborted before the press finds out about it?

  8. When you are a member of the party of Gear-up and EB5 I you would want all documents kept priviate. If rep Anderson does not want his life public at all times as a public servant he needs to leave public office. The othrer side if you abide by the rules and are honest who cares as a elected official who read your e-mails.

    Join me in voting Sutton for Gov.

  9. Roger L. Elgersma

    Checking their computers would be helpful. But you would see a rise in them using their personal computers to be out of that grid of openness.

  10. Roger, I’m o.k. with declaring personal info tech as off limits. But we can still access any e-mail sent through the server, even if legislators access it from their personal phones or computers. We could also then establish an expectation that legislators conduct business through their official Legislative addresses. We could even add some enforcement and say that legislators caught frequently (I’d like to establish a threshold of more than once) using personal e-mail to circumvent open-records requirements will be fined.