Judge: Officials’ Text Messages Are Public Record

A judge ordered yesterday that electronic messages between city officials sent during a public meeting should be open records under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. The decision stems from a lawsuit involving the city of Champaign, which says it shouldn’t have to demand its city council members hand over personal messages. Rachel Otwell reports: 

Laura Hall is an attorney who represents Champaign. She says texts and other electronic communication sent between two council members during an open meeting should be private.

LAURA HALL: “A public record has to be a communication that pertains to public business that’s been used or received by or in the possession of, or the control of the public body, and we argue that a communication sent to an individual council member is not the public body, they’re an individual.”

The (Champaign) News-Gazette had asked for text messages sent between city council members who used their personal phones during meetings.

Don Craven is an attorney who represents the newspaper, he says the public has a right to know how decisions in government are made.

DON CRAVEN: “Voters are entitled to hear the deliberations, not just the decisions, but the deliberations of members of public bodies. Texts during city council meetings are the deliberations.”

Champaign says it will appeal the court’s decision.

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