Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 13, 2014

Board goes paperless for savings, privacy

BY MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County road commissioners referenced saving paper, improving communication and cutting back on wasted staff time before they unanimously voted to purchase iPads for board members’ use.

But the road commission’s elected officials considered one additional motivation before they decided to spend about $2,700 to go paperless during a March 6 meeting: Privacy.

Board Chairman Marc McKellar during a Jan. 30 meeting said he wanted to purchase commission-owned iPads and establish commission email addresses for each board member in order to protect commissioners’ personal emails and personal computers from outside scrutiny.

Board members previously used personal devices and email to conduct road commission business.

“Which subjects all of our personal equipment and email and everything to, you know, wide open, where they can come in and look at it all,” McKellar said during the meeting. “Seize your computer and everything.”

McKellar did not specify who “they” was, but during the March 6 meeting he said creating commission email accounts and operating them with the iPads will ensure board members’ personal equipment is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests “or anything at all.”

Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act allows citizens to request copies of public documents, including email correspondences between public officials.

McKellar said concerns he voiced during the meeting were “not necessarily” about FOIA requests.

“We just decided what we would do is conduct all business using road commission email and road commission equipment,” he said.

McKellar stressed the decision to buy iPads for the board amounts to a cost-savings measure, above all else.

Road commission staffers spent an estimated 200 labor hours assembling 2013 meeting packets for the five-member board that totaled more than 6,4000 sheets of paper.

Officials spent about $2,700 on the iPads and iPad accessories, commission records show.

“This could pay for itself in a couple of years, no doubt about it,” McKellar said during the Jan. 30 meeting. “And it protects all of the board members extensively.”