The public records law does not specifically identify or address e-mail, but there is no evident argument that would exempt e-mail from disclosure under the public records law. E-mail was treated the same as non-electronic documents in a 2000 case, in which a court held that the government need not disclose to the public communications that would affect the quality of governmental decision making. Documents that are both “predecisional” and “deliberative” are presumed privileged; to gain disclosure, a requester must establish that the public’s interest outweighs the assertion of privilege. Gwich’in Steering Committee v. State, Office of the Governor, 10 P.3d 572 (Alaska 2000).
As to current issues in Alaska concerning access to electronic messages, in October 2008 Andree McLeod filed suit against the Office of the Governor seeking disclosure of 1,100 e-mail messages from Gov. Sarah Palin that concerned public business, but were sent via private e-mail accounts. There are two main issues before the court in the case. The first is whether any e-mail messages sent or received by public officials concerning state business are part of the public record as a matter of law, even if the communications were sent or received via private e-mail accounts and not through the state server. The second issue is whether the e-mail messages are part of the public record and whether the public is entitled to an injunction stopping the official use of private e-mail accounts because this practice obstructs the public’s access to the public record. The case is fully briefed, and argument is expected in June 2009.
Under the law, each government agency should have regulations or policies regarding its retention of records. AS § 09.80.140.