One challenge of ensuring transparent government lies in keeping disclosure laws up to date with the rapid development of new communications technologies. In Illinois, for example, the Attorney General has stated that official communications conducted on personal electronic devices fall under public records laws. Florida Governor Rick Scott found himself in hot water when he first took office over missing transition-period emails. Today, the emails of Scott and his top aides are regularly posted online for all to see. Even a decade ago, either of these circumstances would have been nearly unheard of.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has found his own way of coping with the plethora of mediums for official communication. According to the Governor’s counsel in response to an Associated Press public records request, no records exist of any emails concerning official business dating back to Cuomo’s first day in office. Since January 1, 2011, the Governor of the country’s third largest state has apparently not sent a single official email.
In eschewing email communications, Cuomo instead relies almost exclusively on telephone calls and Blackberry PIN messages. Blackberry PIN messages, essentially text messages sent over a data network, are conveniently not tracked or logged by either Research in Motion (the maker of Blackberry devices) or the governor’s office.
Cuomo’s disdain for email extends beyond his own communications. This month, according to an AP/CBS New York report, “Cuomo announced a new archives policy for long-term storage of internal data. It states emails are not records and are therefore suitable for immediate destruction.’” That document can be found here.
Email is practically unavoidable in today’s world. Ditching one of the world’s easiest and most widely used communications technologies can only make the business of running state government more difficult and less efficient. For some reason, that seems to be a trade-off Governor Cuomo is willing to make to avoid potential disclosure of his official communications.