Woodcliff Lake Ordered to Stop Using Personal Email

In an August 4, 2011 decision, Bergen County Superior Assignment Court Judge Peter E. Doyne considered, among other issues, the question of public officials using private e-mails to discuss public business. Judge Doyne ultimately concluded that using personal e-mail accounts for public business "appears highly questionable" and "order[ed] counsel for [the municipality] to circulate a memorandum among all pertinent Borough employees directing they use only their public e-mail accounts, rather than private accounts, when conducting town business."

This is the first such holding of which I'm aware and it may be useful in convincing other government officials to sent official e-mail communications solely through their governmental e-mail accounts. Judge Doyne's decision is on-line at http://ogtf.lpcnj.org/2011216T8//DoyneWoodcliffLake.pdf.

Many thanks to Kevin M. O'Brien, who filed and prosecuted this lawsuit without the aid of an attorney.

The NJ Libertarian Party Open Government Task Force was quoted in a recent news article.

John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party Open Government Advocacy Project, said the state Division of Archives and Records Management has issued a circular that requires public bodies to keep records of e-mail communications.

Many municipalities, however, do not abide by that rule, he said.

"There is no way public bodies can do that if their employees use their personal e-mails for public business," Paff said.