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Bedford and Dracut do not list addresses, but offer a contact form to reach board members. Lowell uses a similar system for its City Council.

Acton, Boxboro, Dunstable, Groton, Littleton, Shirley, Tewksbury, Townsend and Wilmington do not post any email addresses for individual selectmen.

, though, presents challenges: Not all Greater Lowell communities post the email addresses of their elected officials, making it difficult for residents to reach out, and Bottega Veneta Zipper Wallet

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communication already takes place outside of direct public view, and messages exchanged across personal accounts can be trickier to track. But regardless of the inbox where the message lands, it's still considered a public record, said Gavi Wolfe, legislative counsel for the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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those that do post emails often list personal accounts, making it difficult to keep a record of what's said online.

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Chelmsford has a mix of personal and official email addresses, and Billerica provides the personal email addresses for four of its five selectmen.

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All government offices in Massachusetts are also required to establish written email policies.

In Wilmington, School Committee members are given the option of whether they'd like their personal email addresses online.

Locally, the town websites for Ayer, Pepperell and Westford list official municipal addresses for each selectman. Burlington posts each member's personal email address.

Acknowledging that email doesn't have privacy safeguards, the town of Littleton's Selectmen's Regulations and Policies reminds town employees and officials, "A good standard to apply is: Do not send an e mail you would not want printed on the front page of the local newspaper."

"It doesn't really matter, frankly, whether they have an official Balenciaga Tote Ikea

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Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton gave committee members the Balenciaga Bag City Size

Hayes said he posted his email address because he wanted to be accessible to all residents, including ones who didn't know him personally or who might be intimidated to take the floor at a meeting.

The Massachusetts Secretary of State's office, which oversees public records, does not have a specific policy dealing with the use of personal email addresses.

"It's an issue that a lot of towns face," Wolfe said. "A lot of people serve as volunteers on boards, and they need to understand the applicability of the public records law to the work that they do."

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"Funny that the public generally doesn't have a problem getting in touch with a candidate who is running for elected office.," Hayes said. "The public does, however, seem to have a much harder time getting in touch with some candidates once they're elected. Elected officials need to be easily reachable by their constituents every day they're in office, not just when running for re election."

A well meaning official might not mean for an email thread to reach a quorum, but once they hit "Send," it's out of their control where the message might get forwarded next. The laws still apply regardless of intent or knowledge, according to the Middlesex DA guidelines.

However, a bulletin from the office's Supervisor of Public Records states that all email created or received by a government employee is considered public record, subject to disclosure under the state Public Records Law. And last year, the supervisor upheld that emails sent by a Lawrence city councilor's private account were still considered public and had to be turned over in response to a request.

Littleton's policy for use of email by board or committee members echoes a series of guidelines distributed a decade ago by then Middlesex County District Attorney Martha Coakley, now attorney general.

officials' emails are public record

account or not," Wolfe said. "You don't know the Prada Robot Bag Charm content either way, but you know that somewhere, the officials the elected person or the person that's an official government actor is doing business over email. When you make a request for all the emails related to their work, that should include the official and unofficial account."

If your street needs to be repaved, your water bill doesn't make sense or you've got a question about school policies, typing a quick email to a town official can seem like the easiest way to get your questions or concerns addressed.

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Elected and appointed town officials need to be aware of the laws and realize their emails are public, Wolfe said. He said in towns where official email addresses aren't assigned, board and committee members would be smart to create their own separate accounts for municipal business, so those messages are distinct from personal ones.

option to add email addresses in October 2012, said Robert Hayes, a former School Committee member who still follows town politics as the curator of a Wilmington news Twitter account.

The law applies to any type of email account, including those that aren't town administered, Wolfe said.

Coakley recommended that government officials avoid using email to communicate among themselves, unless they were discussing simple housekeeping or administrative matters. Private, serial discussions of public matters over email or via any other medium violate the state's Open Meeting Law if they involve a quorum of a board's members.

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