« Ind. Law - More on "Lawmakers didn’t foresee EACS dilemma" | Main | Ind. Courts - "GOP Chairman Kyle Walker Sends Out Contemptible Mailer Attacking Republican Judicial Candidates " »

Friday, May 04, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - Still more on "Statewide electronic records policy in the works"

Updating two ILB entries from April 25th (here and here), the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorializes today (emphasis from ILB):

The Indiana Commission on Public Records is creating a statewide policy for retaining electronic records. Setting a clear and consistent policy for all government agencies to follow serves the best interest of the public, and commission members ought to start with the idea that most electronic records need to be kept.

State lawmakers made two changes to Indiana’s public records laws in the last legislative session:

•They confirmed that the commission has oversight responsibilities for electronic records.

•And they asked the commission to create the statewide policy on retaining electronic records.

The policy will determine which electronic records and communications that counties, cities and other public agencies need to save and for how long. The commission is scheduled to meet in July to discuss the policy. If it is adopted in July, the statewide rules would go into effect in August.

“Thirty days after we’ve approved it, it’s in effect. There is no longer any local adoption needed. It will be the law, the rules in every county,” said Jim Corridan, director of the Indiana Commission on Public Records.

Currently, when Hoosiers request an electronic record, they face the possibility of 92 different sets of rules, he said. “That was the problem we’re addressing.”

The statewide policy requires each government agency to identify the person responsible for keeping the agency’s electronic records. For some agencies it will likely be an IT leader and for others, such as a city or town, it may be the clerk-treasurer.

One of the objectives of the statewide policy is to distinguish between emails that discuss public business and need to be preserved and those that are “transitory” and may be discarded.

A post on the Indiana Law Blog last week asked an excellent question: “How would the emails that played such an important role in the Duke (Energy) /IURC scandal have been classified under this scheme?”

The scandal, which resulted in Gov. Mitch Daniels’ firing David Lott Hardy, a Fort Wayne attorney, as chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission in October 2010, first came to light after the Indianapolis Star published emails between Hardy and former Duke Energy Vice President James Turner. Some of the e-mails did not discuss pertinent public IURC business. But they did serve as evidence of the inappropriate relationship between company leaders and public officials responsible for regulating the energy company.

“We are going to try to craft a policy that makes it very clear,” Corridan said. “But the reality is there is no way to force compliance at every level of government.” To encourage compliance, he said the commission is also stepping up education efforts.

Commission members should keep the Duke Energy scandal in mind as they create the statewide policy. And they should err on the side of the public’s right for access to electronic records when there is doubt.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 4, 2012 08:56 AM
Posted to Indiana Government