After learning that Mayor Jim Kenney doesn’t use email to communicate with staff and that he had been routinely deleting all of his text messages, we wondered what other elected officials were doing with their government communications.

Just how common is it for elected officials to have few to zero digital records showing how they do the public’s business?

To find out, we filed several requests through the state Right-to-Know Law asking for the emails and text messages of 24 elected officials at the municipal, county, and state levels. We asked for digital communications pertaining to each individual’s government job for the month of March. (State courts have ruled that blanket requests for one month of correspondence are considered reasonable.)

Below are names of those for whom we requested communications, along with the corresponding response. We will be updating this as we get more answers.

Philadelphia City Council - All 17 members

Request made: April 16.

Response: The city’s Law Department initially said it would have to deny our requests for emails and text messages for all 17 members because it would be too time-consuming. It estimated that if a staffer worked full time on this request, it would take about four years to complete, mostly because of the high volume of emails.

The Inquirer agreed to reduce the email portion of the request to three Council members. We since have asked for all communications for the month of March from Council President Darrell L. Clarke, Councilman Allan Domb, and Councilwoman Helen Gym. We are waiting for those records.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney

Request made: April 16. The Kenney request is the only one that differed from the rest. We did not ask for his emails because from previous requests and reporting, we know that he barely emails and has a correspondence coordinator who responds on his behalf. We did request text messages for the month of March. In addition, because Kenney has said he mostly conducts business on phone calls, we requested his cell phone call log for the month of March.

Response: On June 14, the city Law Department provided copies of nine text messages. Those included conversations between Kenney and Deputy Chief of Staff Vaughn Ross about calling the executive director of the Philanthropy Network about the Census Complete Count Committee. Liz Hersh, director of the Office of Homeless Services, texted the mayor on homeless outreach updates. His communication director, Deana Gamble, texted that she emailed him the Q&A for “the tv shows.” And deputy mayor for labor Rich Lazer texted Kenney an update that SEPTA and cops would be back at the table with a mediator. Three of the nine text message chains were redacted.

As for the call log, it showed that Kenney is constantly on the phone during the day. He averaged 72 minutes of call time per day, including weekends. However, it was impossible to tell whether all calls were city business. Of the nearly 1,200 calls, only four had unredacted phone numbers. One was the mayor’s constituent services office, and the other three were with the American Federation of Teachers.

“The City redacted all personal phone numbers, and also redacted business phone numbers from time periods when the Mayor was scheduled to make phone calls that were specifically unrelated to City business,” Robert Kieffer, an assistant city solicitor in the Right to Know division, said in an email.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner

Request made: April 16.

Response: Pending.

Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart

Request made: April 16.

Response: On May 22, the Controller’s Office responded with a flash drive containing 552 pages of emails, including attachments, and texts. Most of the emails were confirming meetings with staff.

Several emails were from residents on the 100 block of Monroe Street in Queen Village about their ongoing dispute with the city’s Streets and Water Departments over their sinking street. Rhynhart followed up with her own questions to then-Water Commissioner Debra McCarty.

There were emails back and forth with staff congratulating themselves on the Exemplary Award from the ALGA Awards for the office’s sexual misconduct audit.

There was even some office gossip about Managing Director Brian Abernathy’s response to questions about his booking a ticket on an Acela train rather than the slower and cheaper train. Rhynhart was only copied in those emails.

Rhynhart’s office provided about 12 pages of screenshots of text messages, also from her personal phone. The texts were mostly between her and her staff with updates on legislation being introduced, pension analysis, and attending a luncheon.

Montgomery County Commissioners Chairwoman Valerie Arkoosh

Request made: April 16.

Response: Pending. On April 23, the office responded that it had identified 1,282 records, and that to redact exempt information, it would have to print out emails and texts. They requested up -front payment of $320.50. The Inquirer sent a check a few weeks later and is awaiting the documents.

Delaware County Council Chairman John McBlain

Request made: April 16.

Response: On May 22, the Delaware County open records department provided a flash drive with nearly 1,600 emails sent and received by McBlain. The drive had McBlain’s entire Outlook account, including folders for organizing his email and deleted files. In its response, the county provided an exemption log detailing the date of the email, name of sender and recipient, and the reason for withholding each of those emails. In all, 18 emails were withheld due to attorney/client privilege or internal, pre-decision deliberations.

The county also provided a summary spreadsheet of every email, which could be searched or sorted by subject line, sender, receiver, and date.

The emails showed that McBlain responds directly to some constituents who reach out about issues with tax payments, divorce documents, questions about jury selection process. He also received several emails from lobbyists updating him on pertinent legislation, such as 911 funding, or setting up meetings.

Christopher Kovolski, assistant vice president for governmental relations and external affairs at Villanova University, emailed McBlain (on his law firm email) asking for a letter of support for a Villanova grant request for construction of its Performing Arts Center. McBlain agreed and forwarded the email to his county email at that time.

For text messages, McBlain provided 14 pages of printouts of his texts. He uses his personal phone and when the request came in, County Solicitor Michael L. Maddren said, McBlain was asked to provide his government-related text messages.

He provided texts from officials alerting him to fires, injuries related to fires, and when a member of the Bethel Fire Company died by suicide.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf

Request made: April 16.

Response: The governor’s emails were few compared to the avalanche of emails received monthly by Mayor Jim Kenney. They were mostly calendar invitations — 106 of them — for events such as traveling to Tremont, meeting with Cabot Oil, and attending the Robotics District State Championship in Bethlehem. He also has scheduled “office time” and received a calendar invitation March 28 to “vote” at 8 a.m. May 21.

The batch of emails provided, which totaled 40 pages, included one week’s worth of daily briefing memos, which ran five or six pages with an update from every aspect of government, including the budget office, general counsel, legislative, communications, etc. Almost all of it was redacted. The only legible ones said: “No immediate issue to report.” Wolf often had what appeared to be a one-line response, which usually was redacted.

The governor’s office said the redacted communications were internal and “pre-deliberative” in nature, and therefore exempt from disclosure under the law.

As for text messages, we didn’t receive any because the governor deleted them.

“For example, texts such as ‘Thanks,’ or ‘I will be there in five minutes,’ are considered transitory pursuant to the Right to Know Law, thus would ordinarily be deleted (and, if any ever existed for March 2019, were deleted prior to your request),” Marc Eisenstein, special assistant in the governor’s Office of General Counsel, said in an email.

Office of Open Records Executive Director Erik Arneson said the law doesn’t differentiate between “transitory” and non-transitory communications.

“Transitory messages are records under the Right-to-Know Law as long as they relate to agency business,” Arneson said in an email. “If such a message exists when a RTKL request is received and the message is responsive to the request, it needs to be maintained and evaluated to determine if it’s a public record. Then, unless it falls under an exemption in the RTKL, it needs to be provided.”

However, the state’s records retention policy says transitory messages must be kept only as long as they are of “administrative value.” The Right-to-Know Law does not supersede any record retention policy.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman

Request made: April 16.

Response: A review of Fetterman’s emails showed that the lieutenant governor barely emails. Of the 27 pages provided, 10 were just from one email detailing Sanctuary Cities talking points and background. Other emails included requests for a TV interview, the only one for which he responded, saying, “I think so. Please call me to discuss.” Others were correspondence from people asking for a meeting or help.

The emails were printed out by the lieutenant governor’s chief of staff, Bobby Maggio, and then scanned as PDFs, making any word searches impossible.

Both the governor and lieutenant governor use personal email and forward some of the business-related emails to their pa.gov email accounts. In several instances, it appeared the forwarding was done when the request for records came in.

The texts provided — about 20 pages of screenshots — showed that Fetterman’s aides mostly texted him about calls happening in five or 10 minutes. No details were provided about those calls. He also received several photos of himself speaking at events.

Pennsylvania House Speaker Michael Turzai

Request made: April 16.

Response: The request was denied April 17. The state House open records officer noted that the Right-to-Know law exempts anything but “legislative records” from the legislature. When the law was drafted, lawmakers made sure commonwealth agencies and local agencies had to provide public records, with some exemptions. But they would only have to provide legislative records, defined by a strict list of 19 items, none of which is correspondence (unless it announces a legislative appointment.)

What it means: The state legislative branch gets to communicate in secret without any accountability.

Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati

Request made: April 16.

Response: The request was denied April 22. The state Senate open records officer said emails and text messages are not legislative records as defined in the Right-to-Know law “and hence are not accessible.” The officer provided copies of four decisions by the state Office of Open Records ruling that emails and other correspondence by legislative staff are exempt from disclosure.

What it means: The state legislative branch gets to communicate in secret without any accountability.