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TUESDAY, MARCH 20, 2007
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EDITORIAL

Judge right, wrong in e-mail controversy

Morgan County Circuit Judge Steve Haddock correctly ruled last week that County Commissioner Stacy George failed to show a special interest in keeping county officials from destroying e-mail.

Mr. George failed to present sufficient evidence to preserve records he has tried to view for months. Thus, the many keepers of the records, whomever they might be after the courthouse circus to disperse records, are now free to destroy thousands of contested e-mail if they follow established procedures.

Dislike Mr. George, think he is crazy or that heís a mean-spirited busybody, but heís right on this e-mail issue. There is something wrong when so many people want to hide e-mail from public view.

Judge Haddock was wrong when he said that public access to public computer records could make county government inefficient. The ability to look at traditional records is not the reason county government is inefficient today.

The judge said officials might stop conducting business by e-mail. But why would officials care for the public to see e-mail if they were conducting legitimate county business?

Denying access to e-mail that contain inappropriate communications does nothing but foster the type of abuse already uncovered. Judge Haddockís comment enables gross misuse.

The judge also questioned whether reviewing hundreds of thousands of e-mails is a reasonable request. Again, he is wrong, given the history of this e-mail scandal. If it takes viewing that many records to get to the truth, itís not unreasonable.

His suggestion to consider bringing in another judge at $250 per hour to play the role of King Solomon isnít in the publicís interest either. Deciding what data is prohibited by law for release is not rocket science. If a chief clerk or department head can routinely release information, why would it take a $250 an hour judge to decide what can be released?

The judge ruled correctly on the lack of evidence, but his comments from the bench donít square with the publicís right to know.

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