Wisconsin isn't the only state where the use of private email accounts by high-ranking government officials is being debated – the investigation into lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, a scandal that has ensnared a deputy to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has recommended against using private accounts to conduct state business.
The report, released today by Christie's lawyers, says:
Within the Governor’s Office, we
recommend the following: (a) Restrict the Use Of Personal Email Accounts For
Conducting Official State Business – The individuals responsible for these
acts used their personal email accounts to communicate about this plan. That
practice has to end. Absent extraordinary circumstances,
public employees working in trusted positions should use their official
state email accounts when conducting state business. As a matter of
transparency, accountability, and public access, that is the prudent and responsible
thing to do. The Governor’s Office should also make State employees aware
of the implications, pursuant to public record disclosure and retention
requirements, of text messaging to conduct official state business. This
will further promote transparency, accountability and public access.
Christie ordered the report, which was carried out by "a corporate law firm known for its aggressive white-collar defense work," according to The New York Times. Several early reports have described the report as "clearing" Christie, but the Times story is more of a mixed bag. One Port Authority official says he had a conversation with the governor about the closings on Sept. 11; they last until Sept. 12. Christie denies remembering such a conversation.
A John Doe investigation that targeted aides to then County Executive Scott Walker uncovered an email router used by both county and campaign staff to discuss strategy using private email accounts, and Gov. Walker, running for reelection, has faced questions on his current practices. In a Wisconsin Public Radio report, Walker describes using both public and private email accounts and cell phones to segregate state and political business, and when handling requests from reporters in recent months, the governor's press office has been careful to mind a similar line.
Bruce Murphy at urbanmilwaukee.com spoke to a source who reported seeing "probably half a dozen" staff members using private laptops within the governor's administration during its early days, though no one has reported how these computers were connecting to the internet – whether it was through a state-sponsored Wi-Fi network or a more clandestine one, as the John Doe investigation found.