Gov. Rick Scott has quit using any email for state business.
“The governor now only uses email to communicate with family,” his deputy communications director John Tupps said.
The Orlando Sentinel raised the question as other top public officials — notably Democratic presidential prospect Hillary Clinton — faced criticism over their email practices. The former secretary of state set up a private server for both her government and personal emails.
Scott ran into controversy last fall when The Associated Press revealed that, contrary to his previous statements, he was using a private email account to conduct state business and had failed to include some of those emails in the public record.
At that point, his office said he would stop using private email accounts for public business.
Now, Scott is not using any email for state-related business, Tupps said, though he was unsure exactly when the governor stopped.
Barbara Petersen, president of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation, expressed frustration over the governor’s decision.
“It certainly pre-empts any ability on our part to oversee the governor and what he’s been doing,” said Petersen, whose news-media-supported organization advocates for open government.
And, she added, “I don’t know how you effectively govern a state as complex and large as Florida without using any kind of electronic communications.”
Spokespeople for Attorney General Pam Bondi, Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli all said Wednesday their bosses do not communicate by email with the governor.
Scott’s communication director Jackie Schutz said Scott conducts government business mostly in meetings.
“He meets with lawmakers every day,” she said. “He travels every day.”
Under Florida law, correspondence to or from the governor is public, unless it meets specific exemptions such as student records. It must be archived and released upon request for public inspection.
Scott still has an official email account. It is not published but is accessible to the public at flgov.com.
Three years ago, the governor unveiled Project Sunburst, which posts all the email from the governor’s account on an Internet webpage — flgov.com/sunburst — for anyone to read.
This year, that account is averaging more than 300 emails per day.
Citizens email the governor to express their personal positions on public issues. They ask him for favors, or complain about state agencies. They forward spam, rants and jokes, or flood the account with advocacy letters generated by special-interest groups.
There is no indication that any reach the governor’s eyes. Nor has there been any outbound email from him this year.
Instead, outgoing emails come from Scott’s aides, typically starting with something like, “Thank you for contacting Governor Rick Scott regarding …. The Governor appreciates your concerns and asked that I respond on his behalf.” Typically, they refer people to other agencies.
Some of his senior executive staff email accounts are on Sunburst, too, including that of Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, with little or no discussion of government operation.
One exception can be found in the account of Scott’s chief of staff, Melissa Sellers. She routinely forwards state-business text messages from her cellphone to her email account to comply with the law that those messages should be archived, too.
Those often include communications with various officials, such as aides to Putnam or U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
But other than Sellers’ brief text responses such as “someone should be setting something up with you,” there are no outbound communications.
Petersen said she loved Sunburst when it was announced and wrote the governor telling him so. But she said it quickly became a disappointment because so little public business was reflected.
“Now we’re calling it Sunbust,” she said.
Original article here.