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Attorney General to Carroll County: Email Addresses Can't Be Unilaterally Redacted

Carroll County Commissioner Doug Howard said he still believes it is best to withhold email addresses when it comes to public information act requests.

The State's Attorney General's Office returned its opinion to the Board of Carroll County Commissioners concluding that email addresses should not be unilaterally redacted from Public Information Act (PIA) requests.

In a December 2011 board of Carroll County commissioners meeting, the board unanimously voted to redact email addresses from PIA requests, citing security concerns.

During the 2011 meeting, Commissioner Richard Rothschild said the deputy legal counsel for Gov. Martin O'Malley did not believe that releasing email addresses was in the public interest because it would have "a chilling effect on communications."

Rothschild added that emails are often tied to individual security information and should be kept private. As a result, Rothschild said Carroll County government should mirror the policy already being implemented by Gov. O'Malley in redacting email addresses.

Commissioner Doug Howard said the board would also seek the advice of the attorney general.

The attorney general recently returned its 16-page opinion, advising that there are some scenarios where it is appropriate for email addresses to be redacted, including those dealing with senior citizens and students, but that the PIA does not permit the unilateral withholding of email addresses.

Commissioner Doug Howard said that he was "both amazed by how long it took to get the opinion and how convoluted it is."

Howard said he felt like the board asked a "yes" or "no" question and failed to get a simple response.

"It seems to me like the attorney general went to great lengths to say that the addresses probably should be included, but then gave reasons why it might not be appropriate, thus giving cover to the position taken by the governor," Howard said.

The board of commissioners may revisit the issue after the county attorney has had time to review the opinion, Howard said.

"We took the same position that Governor O'Malley has taken," Howard said. "I strongly believe the position we have taken is the correct one."

Related Articles:

  • New Blog: How Private Are Your Emails?
  • Blogger: Slamming the Door Shut on Open Governance

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Ed January 20, 2013 at 04:26 AM
Buck, not all jobs require the same level of discretion. Mine requires more and I will leave it at that. I just don't see why I, as a private citizen, have to have my contact information become public if I want to send mail or an e-mail to an elected official.But since that is the case, then yes, I will have to muzzle myself. I have to weigh my freedom of speech with the desire to support a family. If it was just me, I might not care as much.
Buck Harmon January 20, 2013 at 05:05 AM
I'll stop by the Office Bldg. to arrange a meeting in person this week...you should have my number as well, I called your office and have been waiting for a return call...might your staff have misplaced it..? Thanks for the followup !
Buck Harmon January 20, 2013 at 05:11 AM
In the meantime Richard...Is there a reason that you are not able to answer the two specific questions that I have posed on this Patch thread..?..it's what these type of blog are about... they are very basic, simple questions...the easiest to answer..
Buck Harmon January 20, 2013 at 04:35 PM
I can't relate to a job that requires the wearing of a muzzle Ed...that's far from living freely...what ever floats your boat though... I respect your concern for family though..
Buck Harmon January 20, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Two questions for Commissioner Richard Rothschild.. 1.If the County Commissioners willingly break the law should they be held accountable? 2. Is law a joke or an illusion that does not need to be recognized?

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