In an unusual disclosure, Gov. Jerry Brown late Thursday released 113 pages of work-related emails from his personal account, a collection evincing a governor who works late, appreciates brevity and holds a keen interest in media coverage of his administration.
Typical was one two-word email Brown sent from his iPhone at 10:16 p.m. on Jan. 5.
“You up??” he asked his press secretary, Evan Westrup.
Nearly 45 minutes later, Westrup sent Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown a copy of a Washington Post story on California’s high-speed rail project.
The emails, obtained by The Sacramento Bee in response to a California Public Records Act request, come after Brown was asked while in Washington, D.C., last month about the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email.
The Bee submitted a request for copies of his email that day.
Though California’s records law does not require disclosure of correspondence to or from the Governor’s Office, Brown said, “I personally follow the practice of putting my calendar out when asked under the Public Records Act, and I wouldn’t see any more problem with emails, myself.”
In a response Thursday, Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary Daniel Powell Calabretta said Brown “occasionally uses a personal email account for informal communication with staff.”
While stating that emails from Brown’s personal account are not subject to the state’s records law, the administration provided copies of some emails from the last 90 days.
Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said Brown is “pretty widely protected” from having to disclose correspondence. Given that, Ewert said, “The fact that he’s (releasing email) is a good thing.”
The emails do not include correspondence between Brown and people outside the administration, or emails officials consider part of the governor’s deliberative process.
Despite its limited scope, such a release is rare for a California governor. But it is not unprecedented. Brown’s predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, provided a batch of emails to The Associated Press in 2008.
Brown’s correspondence appears routine. Many of the emails are from press office employees sending Brown newspaper articles.
The emails suggest a measure of familiarity between the 76-year-old, fourth-term Democrat and his staff. In one email, Jamie Callahan, an aide in the Governor’s Office, addressed Brown simply as “Gov.”
In another instance, Finance Director Michael Cohen shared that Nick Schweizer would be leaving the Department of Finance to take a job at the Department of Education.
In the email, Cohen made a passing reference to a famous comment Brown has made about professors deriving “psychic income” from their jobs.
Cohen wrote of Schweizer, “Unprompted, he acknowledged the drop in psychic income from the new position but is looking for more time to spend with his family.”
Brown’s emails are often brief, composed on his iPhone and include no text other than the subject line. In January, Brown wrote to Nancy McFadden, his executive secretary, “Has Gareth’s UC Appointment been filed at the SOS??”
The email was sent at 11:18 p.m. Brown had just announced the appointment of Gareth Elliott, then Brown’s legislative affairs secretary, to the University of California’s Board of Regents.
Elliott left the administration to become a lobbyist, setting in motion a series of staff changes in the administration.
On Jan. 6, a day before Brown’s office announced that Lark Park, a deputy legislative affairs secretary, would become senior adviser for policy, Brown sent Park an email: “Give me a call.”
In his emails, the governor rarely signed off. One time he did, Brown concluded his message with his initials, EGB, for Edmund Gerald Brown.