Friday, September 28, 2012

Laws spits on the law

Today is International Right to Know Day, when we celebrate freedom of information and promote the right of public access to our government information. So naturally, its when I hear that Whanganui District councillor Michael Laws is pissing all over the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act:

Wanganui District councillor Michael Laws says he will not release any private emails he had sent to other councillors about serial sex offender Stewart Murray Wilson.

All councillors have been asked to provide that information to the council's legal officer, Paul Drake.


But Mr Laws said he had "no intention" of providing that correspondence.

"I regard all emails between myself and any person - councillor or constituent - to be private and to have it open to an LGOIA request sets a dangerous precedent. What next? Text messages?," Mr Laws said yesterday.

The LGOIMA is very clear: information held by a member of a local authority in their official capacity is deemed to be held by that authority. Laws' correspondence as a councillor, whether to other councillors or constituents, is therefore official information and is subject to LGOIMA. It must therefore be provided, unless there is good reason for withholding it. And if Laws doesn't want to obey the law, well, I'm sure the Ombudsman will be willing to educate him about his responsibilities as a local authority member.

And yes, exactly the same principles apply to text messages. If its held in an official capacity, it is official information. Its that simple.