NY1 ItCH: An E-Mail Lesson from Hillary to Cuomo

If there's any useful legacy in the Hillary Clinton e-mail controversy, it could be happening in Albany.

With little fanfare and a lot of fingerpointing, state lawmakers and Governor Cuomo are seriously talking about revamping a policy in which government e-mails are automatically deleted after 90 days. In a day where paper trails rarely exist, there needs to be efforts to forge electronic ones.

Public servants often have a knack of forgetting that what they're doing and saying is on the public dime. The same is true with their letters; their correspondence -- when it is related to work -- is legally a matter of public record. Ironically, the state Legislature is exempt from much of the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Governor Cuomo's team reportedly has a strong like of texting messages or using PINs to directly get some of their points across, bypassing the possibility of a giant government server creating en electronic carbon copy of their message. It's a practice that should stop but it's also hard to enforce such a rule.

In his article today in The Times, Thomas Kaplan notes: "Last year, The New York Times sought records of his phone calls, emails, text messages and a type of BlackBerry-to-BlackBerry communications — known as PIN messages — for a period of 10 weeks. The governor’s office responded by providing heavily redacted phone logs and said it had no other records."

Perhaps the governor is following the lead of Bill Clinton and Chuck Schumer and avoiding any kind of electronic correspondence altogether. Despite their persistence, reporters are getting used to be foiled in their FOIL requests in a digital world.

But it's clear that a new policy needs to exist. How many pieces of actual mail do you receive each day? And then how many daily e-mails do you receive?

The negative publicity surrounding Hillary Clinton and her e-mail server in Chappaqua may be the spur that Cuomo and the legislature need to come up with some sensible new laws. Politicians hate bad publicity even more than transparency. It's  time to buy some backup servers.

 

Bob Hardt

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