Federal Court Rules Fitzgerald’s Emails Belong to FirstNet (7/8/14)
Tuesday, July 08, 2014 | Comments

A federal court ruled that Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald’s emails belong to the U.S. government because they were sent and received in Fitzgerald’s capacity as a First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board member and can’t be disclosed.

Chief Judge James E. Gritzner of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa Central Division said Story County, Iowa’s motion is denied and the United States’ motion is granted. Disclosure of the federal records will be deferred to FirstNet for consideration under federal law, the judge said.

In April 2013, Fitzgerald made accusations about FirstNet’s lack of transparency and openness and conflicts of interests that led to an investigation first by the FirstNet board and then to the Department of Commerce Inspector General’s Office. The accusations also led to the legal dispute about whether the sheriff’s emails were property of Story County or FirstNet.

Last year FirstNet filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief that sought to stop Fitzgerald from releasing his emails under Iowa’s Public Records Act. The lawsuit said Fitzgerald’s emails are federal records of FirstNet, an independent federal authority within the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA).

The lawsuit also said that FirstNet is not subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires federal agencies upon request to make agency records available for public inspection and copying. The judge’s ruling said, “Public access to those records is a question for another day and another forum.”

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