"OMG, Tell the section head to push the permit for the boss's contributor. He's promised extra 50k if we get it done quick...T2UL...bob"
If you are at all familiar with the genre, you'll recognize that as texting jargon. If you work for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and recently attended a class on a new communications system for state business, you'll recognize it as protected speech, even though it might be construed as suggesting something unethical and perhaps illegal.
Trainers are allegedly telling state workers learning a new phone system that they can use an instant messaging feature to avoid citizens' public record requests. While in training for this statewide system, "state employees were specifically instructed that certain telephone messages and instant messages on this system are not subject to the state's open records law," says Terry Mutchler, executive director of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records.
Instructing state employees on how to circumvent the law? Wouldn't that, in itself, be at least unethical, if not borderline illegal?
If someone were to run a class on how to cheat the welfare system, would not the Department of Welfare take a dim view and ask the machinery of state government to take action?
The problem here is the bunker mentality of government on many levels as we lurch our way into this millenium.
For the public, Sunshine Acts and Right to Know Laws hold the promise that government of the people by the people and for the people should be open to...the people. For many in government, they are simply a specific collection of regulations for which loopholes can be found and exploited to keep "the people" at bay.
Thus, the magic of technology in this young century has opened a chink in the armor of the state's Right to Know law into a gaping hole that can be exploited in pursuit of secrecy.
It's possible that legislation amending the law to close the loophole will be forthcoming. But, even if it comes, there will be other loopholes to crawl through, other bits of techology or stealth aimed at violating the spirit of the law.
It's just easier to get things done if people aren't watching and asking questions.
But, no one said democracy was easy.