When an employee signs on with the federal government, he is working for the people of the United States of America. He does not work for his friends and former colleagues in the environmental community or any other group, company or individual.
Moreover, when he communicates with any individual or group, it needs to be on the record and readily available to the American people, who are paying his salary.
Those fundamental facts are missing in the Environmental Protection Agency's response to a lawsuit the Washington, D.C.-based Competitive Enterprise Institute has filed. Remember, the EPA is the agency that held closed-door meetings to discuss farm dust regulations and whose bigwig in Texas bragged about "crucifying" those who are accused of violating regulations.
The institute is seeking emails a regional EPA administrator exchanged with his former employer, the Environmental Defense Fund. Emails that use the agency's system are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, meaning they must be turned over and made public.
He allegedly skirted the law by using another email system such as Google's or Yahoo's. By doing that, the EPA argues the emails are not "public."
If he is doing the public's business on the public's time using the public's money, those emails are public, whether he used the EPA's email system, Google or a note in a bottle.
The problem of using different email systems is "epidemic" in the Obama administration, according to Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the think tank.
"These are not the exception. This seems to be the rule," he told our reporter. "We're talking about a very widespread effort. They're running amok with this practice."
Considering this latest lawsuit the EPA may just win the award for the Obama administration's least "transparent" agency.
Oh, wait. The U.S. Department of Labor may have taken away that award by muzzling its administrators to keep them from discussing their slimy "hot goods" capers against farmers. That's where they tell farmers their pickers are too efficient and hold the crop hostage until the farmer signs a consent decree admitting guilt and pays a fine.
Maybe that explanation is somewhere in Gmail, too.