A recent article in USA Today is headlined “iPads Saving Cities Paper Costs.” The story focused on the cost savings that may result from the use of iPads for internal as well as external communications of cities. The difficulty, as noted by a spokesperson for the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, is the communications on iPads (or iPhones and similar devices) do not necessarily create a record. The Coalition spokesperson was quoted by USA Today as identifying a critical issue in many states, including Washington: “Records generated are subject to disclosure, but we don’t have a mechanism for getting those records from an iPad.”

The State of Washington, like many states, broadly defines public records. The conduct of government business, whether by letter, email, text or other electronic message, may constitute a public record and governments are responsible for maintaining policies to assure public access to such records. One approach to record management is a requirement that a copy of messages relating to government business be sent to a government server.

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The FCC’s Government Operations Director Eugene Huang recently discussed how the forthcoming National Broadband Plan broadband access will help transform how citizens interact with the federal government. In his comments at M.I.T.’s Center for Future Civic Media, Huang discussed the need to make primary legal documents “free and publically available online.” Huang noted the need to stream government meetings, public hearings, and town hall meetings online as well as provide public government data to the internet in machine-readable formats.

Huang’s comments hint at a number of broad initiatives in broadband access, open government, and social media use that will be contained in the National Broadband Plan when it is released later this month. Development of the National Broadband Plan is an FCC project authorized in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Huang’s speech can be found online at the FCC’s Broadband blog.

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In a recent Ethics Opinion, the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee authorized blogging by judges. The Ethics Opinion advises, however, that any judge that engages in blogging should consider posting a disclaimer that the opinions expressed are only those of the author and should not be imputed to other judges and should outline constraints that the judge

The Kitsap Sun recently reported that on October 28, 2009, the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Department’s blog (launched September 8, 2009 and hosted on a County intern’s Facebook site) was taken down. According to the article, the decision to take the blog down stemmed partially from the electronic records management advisory issued by the

The Washington State Archives recently published a records management advice sheet entitled “Electronic Records Management: Blogs, Wikis, Facebook, Twitter & Managing Public Records” that provides guidance to state and local government agencies regarding the retention of public records of posts to social networking websites such as blogs, wikis, Facebook, and Twitter. 

The advice

A ‘Tweet’ OPMA violation?

Public perception counts, technical compliance may not be sufficient. Web 2.0 creates risks and challenges.

‘Tweets’ bring possible illegal meeting to light. 
Twitter Post reveal a gathering of Mukilteo
City Council members after their official meeting.

Headlines like this recent headline in the Everett Herald hurt public trust, even