First Amendment Center: Pa. instant messaging may avoid public-record disclosure
From the First Amendment Center (8/14/12): Trainers are telling state workers learning a new phone system that they can use an instant-messaging feature to keep information away from citizens' public-records requests, the state's open-records director told Gov. Tom Corbett in a letter.
“During several different training sessions for the implementation of the new statewide telephone system, state employees were specifically instructed that certain telephone messages and instant messages on this system are not subject to the state’s open records law,” wrote Terry Mutchler, executive director of the Office of Open Records. It happened in at least four training sessions, she said.
In general, phone records are covered by the 2008 law, Mutchler wrote. But “there’s no way to retain” so-called instant messages, which are intended for “quick, routine communications,” said Dan Egan, spokesman for the Office of Administration, an agency under Corbett.
Under the law, only “obtainable” records are subject to public release, said Melissa Melewsky, attorney for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.