The state of Michigan has settled a lawsuit over the use of private emails by state officials to conduct government business. The deal was announced on Wednesday by Attorney General Dana Nessel and the group Progress Michigan.
Progress Michigan sued in 2016 after discovering then-Attorney General Bill Schuette and his aides using private accounts to communicate with each other about government business. The result was a protracted court battle between the liberal group and the Republican attorney general over whether that violated Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.
Progress Michigan’s Lonnie Scott said this settlement resolves the case.
“It is now very clear that anyone trying to get around FOIA by using a personal email while conducting state business, that that is not acceptable,” said Scott.
Scott says the settlement establishes that private email accounts cannot be used to hide communications by public officials discussing government business.
“We believe there are other mechanisms – the attorney general, the courts, could certainly compel the email service providers to find those records or to look for them,” he said.
Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, praised the agreement, and said the state has revised its procedures to ensure emails about public business are preserved even when they come from private accounts.