[COMM-ORG] Tactics for open records demands [was COMM-ORG may go off the air]

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Sun Apr 3 20:57:07 CDT 2011

 [ed:  thanks to Sue for this wisdom.]

>From Sue Hoechstetter <Sue at afj.org>

In response to recent public/open record requests for emails of public
employees, Alliance for Justice has produced a fact sheet to help those
who think they might be targeted next. To get a more attractive PDF copy
of Chilling Free Speech: The Consequences of Open Records Requests, go
to http://www.afj.org/for-nonprofits-foundations/  Please feel free to
distribute it.

Alliance for Justice
Chilling Free Speech: The Consequences of Open Records Requests
While requests for public records are fairly routine matters governed by
the open records laws of the state in which they are filed, there have
been recent requests that suggest an effort to inhibit the speech of
academics at public universities who have engaged in discussions
regarding the threats to collective bargaining in various states. They
may also be referred to as Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

In recent days, the Republican Party of Wisconsin filed a public records
request for "All emails in and out of [Prof. William Cronon's] state
email account from January 1, 2011 to present which reference any of the
following terms: Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective
bargaining, AFSCME [American Federation of State, County, and Municipal
Employees], WEAC [Wisconsin Education Association Council], rally,
union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott
Fitzgerald [Senate majority leader], Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen,
Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald [speaker of the assembly],
Marty Beil [executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union],
or Mary Bell [president of WEAC]."
http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/137911.html. The request came on the heels
of an op-ed Professor Cronan authored in the New York Times related to
the recent attacks against unions.

Similarly, the Mackinac Center, an anti-union organization in Michigan,
filed public records requests with three state universities in Michigan:
the Labor Studies Center at the University of Michigan, the Douglas A.
Fraser Center for Workplace Issues at Wayne State University, and
Michigan State University.

It is possible that other individuals working within public institutions
may receive similar requests. If you think you may be targeted, take
some time to learn your rights and responsibilities.
In advance of receiving such a request:
1. Be thoughtful about what is written in email communications and be
cognizant of the difference between personal and institutional
communication. Individuals other than the intended recipients may read
email sent through institutional email accounts and that email may be
subject to open records requests.
2. Universities and other public institutions will have document
retention policies which should be followed, related both to retaining
and deleting email. Find out what your institution's policy says and act

Susan Hoechstetter
Alliance for Justice
phone: 202/822-6070
e-mail: shoech at afj.org


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