Friday, January 2, 2009

What e-mails are you sending out, Commissioner Rule?

Don’t you want to know what Canyon County Commissioner Steve Rule is sending out through his e-mail account that taxpayers provide him?
Apparently, Rule doesn’t want you to know.
Last month, after it came to light the Rule had sent out a joke e-mail about Michelle Obama, comparing her to a black widow spider, I got curious about what other e-mails Commissioner Rule was sending out.
As you might recall, and as you can read in this blog, I took Rule to task, not for the apparent racism of the e-mail, but for wasting taxpayer dollars on sophomoric joke chain e-mails. It got me to thinking that maybe this wasn’t the only joke email that Rule was sending out on the taxpayer dime.
So I filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act and Idaho Public Records law asking for a copy of all of Steve Rule’s sent e-mails for the months of October and November.
According to the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, “To date, E-mail (electronic mail) has not been separately addressed by the legislature. E-mail is considered a public record subject to the same laws as any other public record.”
As you may or may not know, public agencies have three days to respond to a public records request. Two days after my request was referred to the Canyon County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, on Dec. 17, I received a letter from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Samuel B. Laugheed seeking an extension of the deadline on my request. Why, I don’t know.
On Dec. 29, I received another letter from Mr. Laugheed, denying my request for the information.
“I understand from Commissioner Rule that he does not retain sent email,” Laugheed’s letter states. “I also consulted with the County IT Department and understand that Commissioner Rule’s sent emails are not archived by them.”
Fair enough, I guess, although Mr. Laugheed’s phrasing, “I understand from Commissioner Rule,” seemed a little weak to me. Plus, it seemed odd that no one has sent emails from two months ago? My Entourage keeps sent emails as long as I want, and hotmail keeps sent e-mails from at least a year ago. Granted, aol keeps only a month’s worth of e-mail, so I guess it’s conceivable that Steve Rule’s sent emails from a couple of months ago are now disappeared and unobtainable.
So I figured sent e-mails would be kept around for a month anyway. So I filed another request on Dec. 29, asking for Commissioner Rule’s sent emails for the month of December. Quickly, I received a response from Mr. Laugheed on Dec. 31: “As previously stated in our December 29, 2008, letter responding to your request of December 15, 2008, I understand from Commissioner Rule that he does not retain sent email.”
So I’m not quite sure Mr. Laugheed did anything to fulfill my second request. I have a call into him, hoping to hear back soon.
Otherwise, it sounds like Commissioner Rule is actually actively going into his sent email folder and deleting his sent emails.
So my question is, “What do you have to hide, Commissioner Rule?”
What do you think? Don't you want to know what emails he's sending out on the taxpayer dime?

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