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Editorial: Auditor enters email swamp

How many times do government officials have to learn this lesson? Don’t use private email accounts for government business.

The latest elected official to break what by now should be a no-brainer of a rule is State Auditor Tim Keller, who has been using a private Gmail account for some state business – although to his credit he doesn’t dispute that communications in that account are subject to the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.

The account was set up after he was elected in November and before he had access to an official state government account. That’s just fine. But once he took office and had an official state account, the private email account should have been cut off from state business and the name, auditorkeller@gmail, changed because it gives the impression it is a government account. But Keller, a vocal advocate for transparency in government, kept using it for state work.

Keller is not the first official to be tripped up by private emails. Democratic frontrunner for president, Hillary Clinton, continues to draw fire over her use of a private email account for government business when she was secretary of state. At this point, she’s been reduced to saying the government probe into the practice isn’t technically a criminal investigation.

And Gov. Susana Martinez got into email hot water in 2012 when it was disclosed that members of her executive branch were using private email accounts for government business. The governor ordered the practice stopped – both for discussions and final decisions.

That is how it should be. And while Keller’s camp contends his private account was always considered official and public, using it gives the opposite impression. Keller should simply say it was a bad call and stop using it.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.