Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

July 29, 2013

BRIAN HOWEY: Government emails in Indiana, John Gregg and me

Former speaker saved journalism in 2001.

(Continued)

Had he signed HB 1083, it would have dramatically changed Indiana journalism by keeping what has become a huge swath of information out of the public arena. We wouldn’t have learned, for instance, about the cozy relationship between Duke Energy and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and the Edwardsport plant overruns.

The volume of emails between government officials, their employees, counterparts, constituents and even the press has been huge and expansive. Having the potential access to these emails hasn’t been abused, in my opinion, but it adds a 21st century check and balance for the Fourth Estate and its watchdog role over government. Most government officials know that you don’t put anything in an email that you wouldn’t be comfortable with showing up in a court hearing or on the front page.

As Robin Winston, former O’Bannon aide and Indiana Democratic chairman, liked to say, “A letter can die on the shredder, but an email lasts forever.”

After O’Bannon vetoed the bill, Speaker Gregg was under intense pressure from his chamber to bring up the veto for an override on Organization Day that November. Given Indiana’s weak constitutional governorship, the override probably would have been successful. And by circumstance that he had concocted, John Gregg ended up at a luncheon table seated next to me.

While most of us at the luncheon were dressed in ties and sport coats, I remember Gregg showed up wearing a red and black lumberjack shirt. He was in his usual jovial mood, enjoying the notion that I had to ride in a convertible through downtown Vincennes as part of its annual holiday parade, which reminded me of the final scene in the movie “Animal House,” though the boys at Delta house were hung over and didn’t show.

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