Joint Statement on Conducting Public Business in Non-Government Email Accounts

The Council of State Archivists (CoSA), the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) believe that public officials should use official government email accounts for the conduct of public business. Routine[1] use of either unofficial, non-government email accounts or other forms of commercial electronic messaging apps and services, rather than official government accounts, violates the transparency and openness that the public requires from its government; makes it difficult to hold public officials accountable; unnecessarily mixes government and personal records; and ultimately jeopardizes the accessibility of the archival record to the American people.

CoSA, NAGARA, and SAA believe that the public trust requires officials at all levels of government to be familiar with and to follow all applicable local, state, and federal laws for recordkeeping requirements. Managing both email and newer forms of electronic messaging is just one part of a comprehensive government archives and records program that facilitates efficient conduct of government programs and services, ensures effective management of government information, and provides adequate documentation of government activities.

CoSA, NAGARA, and SAA continue to encourage the United States Congress, state legislatures, and local government bodies to pass strong and comprehensive records management laws and regulations that take into account newer forms of communications technologies as a means for communicating about government business. Further, lawmakers at all levels should be encouraged to provide funding and resources necessary to ensure compliance with these laws. Legislation should include serious penalties for any government official who breaks recordkeeping laws or willfully withholds official communications from appropriate government recordkeeping systems.

CoSA, NAGARA, and SAA believe that democratic governments require comprehensive records management laws and adequately funded archival and records management programs to ensure the public’s right to know, the accountability of government officials, and the preservation of government records with historical value. By creating and adhering to records management laws that achieve the highest possible level of transparency, public officials fulfill the trust of the American people and the highest standards of an open government.


CoSA, NAGARA, and SAA represent professional archivists who identify essential evidence of society and ensure its accessibility by the public for generations to come. Our work supports accountability, legal and fiscal needs, and the preservation of the American historical record. This is particularly true of government archives, which provide documentary evidence about government administration and ensure transparency and accountability.

Approved by the SAA Executive Committee, September 2019; supersedes June 2015 Joint Statement.

[1] CoSA, NAGARA, and SAA understand that in our increasingly mobile world, there will be exceptional circumstances in which public employees may need to resort to use of commercial email and electronic messaging services for conducting particular communications regarding official business. However, in each such instance employees should understand their mandatory obligation to take reasonable steps to contemporaneously forward or copy the communication to a government account. Cf. The Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014, adding 44 U.S.C. 2209 and 44 U.S.C. 2911 (Executive branch officers and employees may not create presidential or federal records concerning official business on a non-official electronic messaging account unless messages are copied or forwarded to an official governmental account within 20 days).