Transparency Watch

Cuomo administration maintains secrecy, uses private email for official business

Some New York state officials are using private email accounts to conduct official business. One reporter at ProPublica received an email from Howard Glaser, director of state operations and a top adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, regarding an open records request. This email was sent from Glaser's personal email account. But later, when the reporter filed a request for emails sent from Glaser's private account, he was informed that the state had no such records. Even after submitting the request again (this time with the email that he had received from Glaser attached as evidence) the ProPublica reporter was told that his request could not be filled.

Email records raise a host of transparency issues: What sorts of emails constitute a public record? How long should emails be retained? What constitutes official business, and when should official, rather than personal, email accounts be used?

ProPublica reported that aides to Cuomo are sending official emails from private accounts in order hide these communications from the public. This is a common tactic used by politicians to avoid being transparent, and one that, at least in New York, may be against state policy.

Cuomo had in the past pledged to "use technology to bring more sunlight to the operation of government." And policy put out by the Office of Information Technology services — signed by the governor — requires state employees to get authorization for using personal email accounts for offical business.

Still, Gov. Cuomo's office has become known for its "obsession with secrecy," according to ProPublica.

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