SAN JOSE -- San Jose officials voted unanimously Tuesday to appeal a judge's landmark ruling last month that city officials' communications about city business are public records even if sent and received on private text, email or other electronic networks.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg's decision last month was a victory for San Jose activist Ted Smith, who sued the city in August 2009 over its refusal to disclose officials' personal electronic communications.

Smith had requested emails, texts and other messages sent to and from personal devices by Mayor Chuck Reed, council members and redevelopment officials about city business including subsidizing a development in San Pedro Square downtown on property owned by former Mayor Tom McEnery and his family.

Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition in San Rafael, said the ruling would close a loophole in California's public records law created by uncertainty over how the act applies in the iPhone and Facebook era where public officials often communicate with personal smart phones and social networks. No California court decision has directly answered that question, he said.

City Attorney Rick Doyle had said the ruling raised serious privacy and practical concerns about retrieving records from private accounts.

Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.



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