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, 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.