Miami-Dade County

Judge orders Google to turn over data on governor’s e-mail

In a major defeat for Gov. Rick Scott, a California judge on Thursday ordered Google to turn over the computer IP addresses for all correspondence to and form the governor’s private G-mail account since Jan. 15, 2011, and the accounts of two of his staff.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mary E. Arand ruled that the governor’s attempt to quash a request by Tallahassee lawyer Steven R. Andrews to Google to withhold the information was not valid.

"The subscriber information and IP addresses will assist Andrews in determining whether a public official created the accounts, which, in turn, could establish that official agency business may have been transacted from those accounts,'' Arand wrote in a four-page ruling filed on the court's website.

Andrews wants the computer company to give him the subscriber identities and IP addresses to help him prove his claim that the governor attempted to use the rls.gov@gmail.com account to shield his communications from the state’s public records laws. When the governor refused to turn over the information about the accounts last year, Andrews persuaded a Tallahassee court to approve a subpoena to seek the information from Google. Circuit Court Judge Charles A. Francis also ordered the governor to stop fighting the request.

The governor then filed the lawsuit in September in a Santa Clara County court in an attempt to prevent Google from releasing information on who and when the private G-mail accounts used by Scott and two staff aides were created.

Andrews is also seeking information for the G-mail accounts of Sarah Hansford, the former assistant to First Lady Ann Scott, and Brad Piepenbrink, the governor’s former travel aide and now deputy chief of staff.

The court rejected arguments from the governor’s attorney that disclosing the information would invade their privacy and the privacy of third parties because it could identify the the location of any computer used to log onto the email accounts.

“In agreeing to the Google privacy policy, Petitioners agreed to the disclosure of their IP addresses to third parties, and by using the accounts to send and receive e-mails,’’ Arand wrote in the draft ruling that is expected to be finalized by the court next week.

“Similarly, any third-party who owned a computer from which Petitioners accessed their e-mail accounts would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their IP address because they regularly disclose this information every time they use the Internet.”

Arand noted that Google is not authorized to release the “content” of the emails but only the subscriber information and IP logs for each communication.

The governor’s spokesman, John Tupps, responded to a request for comment saying, “Our lawyers are reviewing it.”

Andrews has been in a legal feud with the governor for more than two years. His complaint initially began over a dispute over property near the governor’s mansion but became a public records challenge when Andrews allegedly uncovered evidence that the governor’s office was altering calendars and withholding documents related to his case, in violation of the state’s public records laws.

The governor acknowledged spending $100,000 taxpayer money defending against the claims before he hired private attorneys in Jacksonville and Tallahassee to handle the case.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com and @MaryEllenKlas

  Comments