Records request turns up few emails

Published 8:15 pm Saturday, March 26, 2016

As part of Sunshine Week, a nationwide effort to promote dialogue on open government, The Daily Leader requested the public emails of officials in the city of Brookhaven and Lincoln County for the week of Feb. 15-21.

The city of Brookhaven requested an additional 10 days to provide the emails, but did not do so in writing as state law requires.

The records were requested on March 16, and according to the Mississippi Public Records Act, government officials have up to seven days to fulfill the request. City attorney Joe Fernald verbally requested an additional 10 days to produce the records on Thursday.

State law says “the public body must provide a written explanation to the person making the request stating that the record requested will be produced and specifying with particularity why the records cannot be produced within the seven-day period. Unless there is mutual agreement of the parties, in no event shall the date for the public body’s production of the requested records be any later than fourteen (14) working days from the receipt by the public body of the original request.”

The newspaper requested the emails of Mayor Joe Cox, City Clerk Mike Jinks, Police Chief Bobby Bell and any of the aldermen that have an official email address.

“We have never been asked to produce email records,” Fernald said. “Due to the mayor being out-of-pocket for part of the seven days and me being sick, we are requesting extra time.”

Fernald said the city does not have a problem producing the records, but he would like to review certain “classified” emails for legality problems. State law allows the government to withhold certain records that could jeopardize a police investigation.

The emails of county administrator David Fields, Sheriff Steve Rushing and any of the five supervisors that have an official email address were also requested on March 16.

Rushing and Fields produced their emails by March 24. Rushing’s records showed he sent or received only six emails during the week requested. They were all pertaining to routine business.

Fields’ records showed he sent or received only 11 emails during that time frame. Most of them pertained to the new baseball complex. There were emails with updates on construction progress, as well as emails about a cheese machine and a scoreboard.

County supervisors do no have official county email addresses.

Fields did not immediately respond to a request for more information about the small number of emails turned over in the records request.