Appointment Calendars of Elected Officials are Increasingly Becoming Public Records

Appointment calendars of elected officials are increasingly becoming public records.  While disclosure is voluntary at the federal level, there is some early momentum among legislators to provide the data on their websites.  Additionally, in California, the schedules of elected officials are typically only an e-mail request away. In March, reporters from the San Diego Tribune requested appointment calendars via e-mail for 59 San Diego County elected and appointed officials to determine how quickly the information would be released.  The newspaper recieved 46 schedules within 10 days of the request and some within several minutes of submitting the request.  The schedules have been posted online here.

The reporters submitted their request pursuant to Proposition 59, which was approved by California voters in 2004 and makes government records more readily accessible to the public.  Immediately after the law was passed, state officials including former Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Governor Schwarzenegger complied with requests and shared their calendars.

While it is atypical at the federal level, there are a few voluntary efforts among legislators to post daily appointment calendars.  Montana Senators John Tester and Max Baucus, Florida Senator Bill Nelson and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are among the few that make their schedules regularly available.  While there is currently no law mandating elected officials to comply, augmented national awareness and the demand for government transparency may lead to greater availability of this type of public record.

To increase pressure on federal legislators, the Sunlight Foundation initiated the Punch Clock Campaign in 2006 to encourage candidates to post their daily appointments upon being elected.  Officials are allowed to redact the schedules for personal appointments and any meetings protected by attorney-client confidentiality.  The remaining information, however, is still useful in learning whether officials are meeting with lobbyists or other special interest groups.