Friday, May 15, 2009

OK AG says msgs on private devices still public records

The Oklahoma attorney general issued an opinion Thursday saying that work messages sent by public officials on their private electronic devices, such as cell phones, Blackberries and laptops, are public records. The cool thing is in Oklahoma, AG opinions are binding unless overturned by a court.

The opinion evolved after Oklahoma State University refused to provide a college journalism student e-mails and text messages regarding public business. University administrators were skirting the public records law by conducting their business on their personal communication devices, arguing that a public record is only subject to the public records law if it is sent on a government computer. The lame policy earned the university the annual "Black Hole Award" from FOI Oklahoma Inc. in March.

Isn't it astonishing that supposedly smart people like university officials can come up with such dumb arguments? Kudos to AG Drew Edmondson for putting the university in its place and keeping the public's business public. Also, congratulations are in order for the college students who fought for these records, and for Joey Senat, co-adviser of the OSU student SPJ chapter, who alerted this issue to FOI/FYI and wrote about this in the December Quill. It takes dedicated students, journalists and professors to keep our leaders honest.