Sunday, September 13, 2009

Margate to Require Employees and Officers to use City e-mail accounts

The City of Margate (Atlantic County) will soon require its officers and employees who use e-mail for municipal business to use their "margate-nj.com" e-mail addresses and not their personal e-mail addresses (e.g. Yahoo.com, Gmail.com, Verizon.net, etc.)

The City's policy change was announced in a September 3, 2009 letter sent in response to an August 31, 2009 letter I sent the City in my capacity as Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project.  The correspondence is on-line here.

In my letter I had noted that the City's response to my recent OPRA request showed that a) all of the City's elected officials were sending and receiving e-mails concerning City business using their personal e-mail accounts, and b) the City's existing "E-mail Voice Mail and Internet Usage Policy" did not address the City's responsibility to maintain and archive official e-mails in case a records requestor later sought access to those e-mails.

By requiring City officials to use only their municipal e-mail addresses for official business, the City's e-mail server will preserve those e-mails for future disclosure.  Under the City's previous policy, there was often no straightforward way for a records requestor to gain access to some official e-mails.  For example, if a member of the City Council lost his or her council seat as of January 1, 2009, and a record requestor later asked for official e-mails that the council member sent in November 2008, there would be no easy way for the City records custodian to honor that request if the council member used a Yahoo.com or Gmail.com account to send the requested e-mails.

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