Bill would make public workers' personal phones, accounts immune from records requests

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An Arizona lawmaker wants to make public workers' personal cell phones and Facebook pages immune from records requests. That means, even if they're conducting state business, you won't be able to know about it.

As the bill is currently written, any and all communication your elected officials engage in on a personal device or social media page would not be public record.

We asked HB2265's sponsor, Bob Thorpe, whether constituents have a right to know about state business, even if it's being discussed on a personal device.

"Absolutely, that's not the intention of my bill," Thorpe told us over the phone.

Thorpe said he felt inspired after reading an opinion written by Attorney General Mark Brnovich in July 2017 related to which communications are private matters, and which are public record. He wanted to put those guidelines in statute, he said. 

"If I use my cell phone to communicate with my wife or my children, that's a private communication and I want to ensure government officials have those private communications protected," Thorpe said.

But attorney Dan Barr insists they already are protected.

"The Arizona Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals have made it clear that purely private emails, even if its [sic] on a government computer or email, are not public records," Barr said.

Conversely, if a public official is conducting business, it is a matter of public record, even if the device is not funded by state money.

"It doesn't matter if you use your official mail account or your private phone number," Barr said. "If you're conducting government business, that's a public record."

"A perfect solution to this is, the state could issue us a cell phone and could pay the monthly fee," Thorpe said. The bill was just introduced Thursday. 

"I've put in a request to our constitutional rules attorney to take a look at my language and give me some direction on it," Thorpe said.

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Lindsey ReiserLindsey Reiser is a Scottsdale native and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

Click to learn more about Lindsey

Lindsey Reiser

Lindsey returned to the Valley in 2010 after covering border and immigration issues in El Paso, TX. While in El Paso she investigated public corruption, uncovered poor business practices, and routinely reported on the violence across the border.

Lindsey feels honored to have several awards under her belt, including a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, Hearst Journalist Award, and several National Broadcast Education Association Awards.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and she currently serves as a mentor to journalism students. She studied for a semester in Alicante, Spain and also earned a degree in Spanish at ASU.

She is proud to serve as a member of United Blood Services’ Community Leadership Council, a volunteer advisory board for the UBS of Arizona.

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