Branson Alderman Deny E-mail Correspondence

Branson - A Sunshine Law request issued by the Branson Edge to the city of Branson revealed only four e-mail correspondence from the Branson Board of Alderman to a majority of Board members within a years time. All four e-mails were sent a year ago (last April) and all were from Branson Alderman Stephen Marshall.

Alderman Bob McDowell said he didn't want e-mails being passed which is why he addresses the board in open meetings. Alderman Marshall stated he asked Terry Dody to set up a filing system for tracking digital correspondence (which is how the four e-mails were recovered)

Even on the Federal level, certain types of correspondence aren't considered open records. The Republican National Committee (RNC) issues e-mail addresses for candidates for campaign correspondence - which came into question last week during hearings at the White House (Live Session Broadcast on C-SPAN)

Tony Messenger reports a lawsuit in Texas forced officials to release every e-mail to the public from a private e-mail account that was used part time to conduct official business. Last Monday, Messenger stated the law in Missouri regarding e-mail remains untested by the courts.

The ease of digital correspondence promises to yield interesting headlines this year as forums for open government continue to move out of the physical and into the digital.

Yesterday, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt issued a Sunshine Request and asked Attorney General Jay Nixon's office to conduct an e-mail retention violation upon itself.

One Democratic Candidate suggested we create a Sunshine Law Police Force within the Missouri Attorney Generals office. Some fear the unit could easily become a partisan hit squad and believe the proposed Sunshine Law Police should be moved to a less politically charged office.

Official correspondence falls under the auspices of the Sunshine Law, however, politicians have found away to evade open government policies by utilizing private e-mail accounts to conduct government business.
E-mail is an efficient, and environmentally sound way of transmitting data. Government officials, such as those in Branson should be commended for making use of technology that enables a better democracy and increased communication with citizenry. Still, it's important that our officials use it in an open and responsible manner.