Are email messages between public employees using public computers considered private property? Would that protect the emails from a state's open-records law? That's the question the Idaho Supreme Court is being asked to decide, reports the Associated Press.
The dispute is betweeen the The Spokesman-Review newspaper on one hand and Kootenai County prosecutor Bill Douglas and former Juvenile Drug Court supervisor Marina Kalani, who exchanged some 900 emails using public computers.
A lower court ruled for the newspaper, holding that the emails are the property of the public and that the newspaper may access them. Kalani, argued that the emails between her and Douglas are personal in nature and therefore should not be released under the Idaho Public Records Act. Also under consideration are whether details of a cash settlement between Kootenai County and Kalani should be available as a public record.
"The payment of public funds to a public employee should be a matter of public record" said Tracy LeRoy, the attorney representing the newspaper
The county for its part is just hoping for clarity on the law.
"The balance of individual privacy interests and the public's right to view documents generated or retained by public entities is a difficult one," general counsel Erika Grubbs said.