For Local Agency Officials, Private Electronic Devices Not Exempt from Disclosure

In March, the California Supreme Court ruled that emails and texts that are sent or received on an agency official’s private electronic device and are related to an agency’s business are considered public records under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). The ruling was in response to the case of City of San Jose et al. v. The Superior Court of Santa Clara County (Smith), involving a public records request that sought emails and texts sent and received on private electronic devices used by San Jose’s mayor and members of the City Council. Justice Carol Corrigan wrote in the ruling, “we conclude that a city employee’s communications related to the conduct of public business do not cease to be public records just because they were sent or received using a personal account.” The Court also suggested that local agencies develop policies for employees to address requirements of the CPRA, specifically regarding information in private devices that may be considered relevant public records.