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Personal e-mails from city computers not public information

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MIDLOTHIAN - Personal e-mails sent from city computers among employees, staff and elected officials are not public information, according to the Texas Attorney General Open Records Division.

Requests to Midlothian City Hall were sent Wednesday seeking any non-city related material - including photos, images, attachments, saved chat sessions - sent to and from city employees within the past three calendar months - were rejected by City Secretary Lou Jameson as not being under allowable dissemination in the Open Records Act.

Attorney General Greg Abbott's office concurred.

"If it doesn't relate to city business, is not public information," said Hadassah Schloss, the cost rules administrator in the Open Records Division. "And if it's not public information, it's not covered by the [Public Information Act.]"

The requests to Midlothian came on the heels of a leaked e-mail apparently showing electronic communication from the city's assistant fire chief/fire marshal, Tom Montgomery, forwarding an e-mail that showed an image of a fully naked woman.

The photo was included in a three page forwarded joke e-mail about Einstein's theory of relativity.

"Everything is public in my eyes," said Brandon P. Reed, a freelance investigative journalist and blogger who made the request for the non-city related e-mails. "Elected officials and appointed officials are public. It's all about transparency."

City Manager Don Hastings said if the e-mail from Montgomery was true, it would be in violation of city policy.

"We're investigating this now," Hastings said Monday.

Hastings was then forwarded the leaked e-mails.

Montgomery did not return an e-mailed request seeking comment.

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