State employees are supposed to use their public e-mail addresses — the ones that end in ct.gov — to conduct public business.
But as Courant columnist Kevin Rennie reported last week, members of the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy have been using their private e-mail accounts, on Gmail, Yahoo and other mail services, to discuss important topics.
This use of private accounts to conduct the public's business must stop.
According to a directive published in 2009 by the state Office of the Public Records Administrator, "Electronic messages sent or received in the conduct of public business are public records. Therefore, public officials should not use private e¿mail accounts to conduct public business."
That's a guideline, not a law. Still, it couldn't be more clear. Yet apparently, members of the Malloy administration think it doesn't apply to them.
Why does it matter? Because it looks as if the administration is trying to skirt disclosure under the state's freedom of information laws.
All emails are equally subject to the state's FOI laws, as the administration admits. So why not simply use the email addresses supplied by the state?
Here's why: As officials doubtless realize, it's a lot easier to conduct FOI searches and analyses if there's a centralized public source. Having several private e-mail accounts can delay or discourage those trying to find out what officials have been saying to one another.
Plus, those using private e-mail accounts are the ones who turn over messages if asked to do so — and it's the account holder who decides what, and how much, to disclose.
That's no way to have open government. Those seeking details about public business shouldn't have to play "button, button, who's got the button" to track officials' correspondence.
To be sure, other governments do this. The Associated Press reported in June that some Cabinet officials in the Obama administration have been using private email accounts to conduct official business. India is outlawing all private email services for official communications.
However, Chris Cooper, who was Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell's press secretary for nearly four years, says that "no one I knew or worked with conducted business in that manner."
It is evident that top people in the Malloy administration are using private email for public business, and it is time for them to cut it out.