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On Beacon Hill, a digital divide exists

Some take selfies, some print e-mails

Don’t count on an electronic reply from House Speaker Robert DeLeo (left). Meanwhile Governor Charlie Baker e-mails at all hours, texts staff, uses Twitter, and sometimes whips out an iPhone for selfies.Globe Photos

Have a pressing matter for the state's top elections official? Best to pick up the phone. Secretary of State William F. Galvin, 64, "does not e-mail," according to a spokesman.

Send an e-mail to Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and he'll probably read it — after aides print it out for him. But don't count on an electronic reply from the powerful legislative leader. DeLeo, also 64, is more of a phone-call and chatting-in-person guy.

You might have more luck with Governor Charlie Baker, 58, who e-mails at all hours, texts staff, uses Twitter, and sometimes whips out an iPhone for selfies. Or Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, 60, who e-mails, texts, uses Facebook, and is hip enough to the times she even has a favorite emoji — a smiley with sunglasses.

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Who e-mails, by what means, and who gets to see the correspondence, has become a national political parlor conversation after revelations that Hillary Rodham Clinton used a private e-mail account as secretary of state. She has faced criticism that she shielded or destroyed e-mails that should be available to the public.

In the wake of the controversy, a review of a handful of Massachusetts policies shows that officials and employees on Beacon Hill are generally supposed to use state e-mail for state business. Many of those e-mails are required to be retained for some period of time, some are considered public records, but many are exempt under the state's public records law.

But those policies only matter for officials who actually use e-mail, and a digital divide runs straight through Beacon Hill.

On Wednesday, Baker, who has a state and personal iPhone, said he views e-mail as "an effective way to communicate, just given the crazy world we live in."

Baker said his goal is to get everything that is possibly related to state business on the state phone. An administration aide said Baker's state e-mails are preserved and backed up nightly.

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Previous governors have asserted the Governor's Office and its internal e-mails are exempt from the state's public records law, pointing to a 1997 decision from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which noted the governor is not "explicitly included" in that law.

Tim Buckley, Baker's chief spokesman, said the new "administration agrees with the legal positions taken by every administration since the [SJC] decision in 1997, and will carefully evaluate all public records act requests as we receive them."

Buckley also pointed out that Baker's Cabinet secretaries are subject to the public records law, which includes exemptions for many reasons, including policy positions being developed, investigatory materials, and trade secrets.

Baker used his personal iPhone heavily throughout his campaign last year and often stopped to snap selfies with supporters.

"Unless somebody tells me otherwise," the governor said, "selfies are going to be on my personal phone."

Auditor Suzanne M. Bump receives about 50 e-mails regarding state business each day, and sends fewer than 10, according to Lauren DeFilippo, a Bump spokeswoman. Bump uses her state e-mail for state business and a personal e-mail for personal matters, DeFilippo said.

But a 3 a.m. time stamp on missive from the 59-year-old Bump is unlikely.

"Sometimes she will e-mail outside normal business hours, but she is diurnal, not nocturnal," DeFilippo said in, well, an e-mail.

And Bump's device of choice? She has a BlackBerry, but "would like to have an iPhone," DeFilippo said.

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Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, 65, uses an iPhone and iPad for mobile communications, regularly e-mails, and sometimes personally posts on official social media accounts, maintained by his staff.

Spokesman Pete Wilson said Rosenberg sometimes e-mails very early in the morning, late at night, and on weekends, and the Democrat "has been known to be quick witted and funny in his responses."

Wilson added that Rosenberg uses his official Senate e-mail for official business and has a private e-mail account for political, campaign, and personal use.

Attorney General Maura Healey, 44, regularly e-mails, uses an iPhone and iPad, and conducts official business on her state account, said spokeswoman Cyndi Roy Gonzalez.

The state's top law enforcement official is "direct and to the point" in e-mails, Gonzalez said, adding that the attorney general communicates directly with staff members at all levels, not just her top aides.

Goldberg, who took office this year and uses an iPhone, regularly e-mails, according to spokesman Matthew Sheaff. He said she uses her state account for official business.

Not all officials are as digitally engaged.

DeLeo spokesman Seth Gitell said in a statement although DeLeo does not personally use e-mail, he "takes pride in reading all of his messages."

Galvin's spokesman, Brian McNiff, said the secretary is made aware of relevant e-mails that come into the office.

The Legislature is not covered by the state's public records law, so records such as the Senate president's or the speaker's e-mails are not subject to disclosure. Spokesmen for Bump, Healey, Goldberg, and Galvin all said their bosses' e-mails are subject to disclosure under the public records law, but noted there are a number of exemptions that sometimes apply.

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A general prohibition on using state e-mail for nonstate business appears relatively consistent across the vast bureaucracy. For example, an information technology policy for the Legislature states that IT resources are "for legislative business use only."

In the executive department, which includes many state agencies and tens of thousands of employees, the policy on using private e-mail for state business is clear.

Bill Oates, the state's chief information officer, said in a statement that those users "are required to utilize their agency's designated e-mail for any official business communications."

But policies in some other parts of state government are less clear about whether it's OK to conduct state business on, for example, a Gmail account.

State-related e-mails created or received by state employees are generally public record, but with a lot of exceptions. Many e-mails are supposed to be retained for a certain period of time, from days to a few years to forever, depending on their content.

McNiff, the spokesman for the secretary of state, said e-mails about state business conducted on private e-mail accounts have to be turned over to the state when the official or employee departs.

Of course, there is no way for the state to police private e-mail accounts. And state e-mails don't always stand the test of time.

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Tens of thousands of messages sent or received by Cabinet secretaries in administrations of Governor Mitt Romney, Acting Governor Jane Swift, and Governor Paul Cellucci were erased automatically after officials didn't back the e-mails up, the Globe reported in 2011.

And some Romney aides bought their state-issued hard drives at the close of his term, a practice Romney said followed the law. His administration's e-mails were also wiped from a server, the Globe reported.


Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.