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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2007
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Public view of e-mail may require 17-day wait
Morgan commission to vote on policies at Tuesday meeting

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com 340-2437

It could take you 17 working days to see a public document in Morgan County if someone doesn't want you to see it.

That's the timeline County Commission attorney Bill Shinn is suggesting as a prerequisite for viewing public records.

The term working days applies to days that the courthouse is open.

During a meeting Tuesday, the commissioners are to adopt one of two policies Shinn drafted.

Both are basically the same with a twist in terminology.

Each states that a citizen who wants to view e-mail sent from county computers must go through the elected or appointed official in charge of the offices from which e-mails originated. In one proposal Shinn lists the sheriff, revenue commissioner, probate judge, license commissioner and board of registrars as officials who would respond to a public records request. In the other, Shinn simply states that county officials would respond, which would be the same people in the positions he listed in the other proposed policy.

Officials to review requests

The proposed policies state that the official in charge of releasing the records will have two working days to review requested e-mails and tell the data processing manager which e-mails may be released. If citizens challenge e-mail that the official considers exempt from viewing, they would have five days to file the challenge. Then, the county archivist will review the challenged e-mail with Shinn's assistance and will have 10 days to render a decision as to whether the e-mail should be exempt.

The policies state that the data processing employee would put the selected e-mails on a disk and provide a computer for the requester to view the material. The citizen would pay 25 cents for a copy of an e-mail. In addition, anyone who requests an unspecified number or all e-mails would have to pay an hourly rate or a fraction of it for researching the records.

Chairman John Glasscock is in charge of the county's seven servers and employees. Elected officials do not offset the cost of employees or maintenance.

State law mandates that any citizen may view any public record and take a copy of it.

Any official who withholds public records would be in violation of the state's public records law.

A policy that a county commission adopts cannot supercede state or federal laws.

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