Official Use of Private Email Prompts Call for Records Law Revisions

Dec 10, 2012

Top Jindal administration officers used personal email accounts to come up with a media strategy around cuts to Medicaid.

LSU Mass Communications Professor Craig Freeman says the new revelations point to a need for Louisiana to update its public records laws.

"We haven’t really, effectively updated public records laws in probably 30 years. But we’re essentially using a 1960’s remedy for a new millennium problem," Freeman said.

At least 26 states view the use of private emails as public records, while the rest provide little or no guidance on the issue. Louisiana law vaguely states that all documents used in "the conduct, transaction or performance" of public business are considered public, unless there’s a specific exemption.

The Associated Press found that state officials used non-government email addresses dozens of times to communicate about a public relations offensive supporting Medicaid cuts last summer.

After the messages were excluded from a public records request, the AP received the emails from an anonymous official who was not authorized to release them.

Gov. Jindal himself was not included in the emails, and it’s still unclear whether the governor knew his top staff were using private accounts to conduct public business.