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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Drafts Are Public Record & Why Not Save Emails To CD?

Editorial: Drafts Are Public Record & Why Not Save Emails To CD?

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The Town of Carolina Beach will consider a policy at their June 12, meeting concerning access to a new computer being installed in the lobby at Town Hall to permit public access to government emails.
This is a step forward in promoting transparency in government by allowing citizens to chose to become more informed about the activities of the leaders they elected and the employees that serve the public.
In reading the proposed policy, a couple of issues became evident.
First, the policy states that "Categories of emails considered public record" includes among other items, "Final drafts or reports and recommendations." State public records laws do not separate "final documents" from "draft documents."
Local government officials often claim that since a document is in "draft" form, it's not public record. They're wrong. That's not true. North Carolina Courts have clearly ruled on this issue. But citizens often take their word for it.
That's why the Island Gazette is going to pull together all the information to give citizens a local one-stop online destination covering all things "public records." Sure, you can research it online, but this way you'll know where to go and who to call when you have questions. 
Also, they're going to restrict access to emails by proposing a policy that prohibits downloading digital copies of emails for Mayor, Council, Town Manager and department heads. You will have to pay ten cents per sheet to print those emails. That includes attachments that can range anywhere from one page to 100 pages or more.
Why force citizens to be environmentally unfriendly and use paper when emails and attachments can easily be saved to a CD, DVD or other media. 
Anyone with the most basic knowledge of a computer can accomplish that task. Downloading is much more environmentally friendly than printing and it saves on the lifetime of a printer. The policy should be amended to include some procedure to provide those emails to citizens in a digital format upon request and within a reasonable amount of time.
That's currently how the Town handles requests from the media who often ask for emails from one or more officials for a specific period of time. Such as one or two months.
Email software has the option to save emails to a storage device such as a USB memory stick, SD memory card, CD, or DVD. Trust me, the first time someone has to print out a 50 page attachment and the dimes start adding up, the simple question will be, why do I have to spend so much money when I could hand the Town a blank CD that costs far less than 50 pages at 10 cents per page?