Alaska Supreme Court: State Government Workers Can Use Private Email Accounts

Alaska state employees can use private email accounts for public business but the messages must be preserved under public-records laws, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled on Friday in a case stemming from ex-Governor Sarah Palin’s communications practices.

Palin is out of office but the ruling could affect her successor, Governor Sean Parnell, who is involved in his own controversy over public records. Critics have accused Parnell and his aides of using text messages rather than official emails to keep communications out of public view.

Electronic messages about state business are no different from paper communications under the Alaska Public Records Act, the Alaska Supreme Court said in its unanimous 16-page written decision that largely upheld a lower court ruling.

All paper or electronic messages regarding state business must be preserved and made available for public review, in accordance with state law, “and that duty cannot be extinguished by a public official’s unreviewable decision simply not to preserve them,” the court said.

A spokeswoman for Parnell said that his administration viewed the court’s ruling as “favorable.”

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