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Griddlegate: Pancakes, French toast sweetened state e-mails

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Gov. Charlie Crist has called for an investigation following allegations that Florida Department of Transportation employees used code words in e-mails referring to the state’s pending high-speed rail program.

Some department e-mails refer to “pancakes” and “French toast,” apparent code words for aspects of the transit. The suspected reason for the syrupy sleight of hand: to avoid having the e-mails discovered through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The flapjack flap came to light after gubernatorial candidate Paula Dockery requested copies of all high-speed rail-related e-mails from March to November 2009. The Transportation Department turned over 121 messages in response. But once the rail plan was approved, it released an addition 8,000 e-mails, many strewn with the pancake and French toast references.

Dockery wants to know why the DOT waffled on the number of pertinent e-mails.

Note: Coded e-mails may not be so sweet for employers facing employment litigation. Electronic discovery rules require employers to produce in good faith all e-mails pertinent to litigation. A pancake here or French toast there and suddenly the employer has accidentally missed a key piece of evidence. Having to explain that in court could send an employer from the frying pan into the fire.

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