IOWA CITY — The U.S. Department of Justice obtained temporary legal relief Tuesday to block the release of emails to and from an Iowa sheriff who serves on a federal board charged with building a high-speed broadband network for emergency responders.
Department lawyers requested an injunction in federal court in Des Moines to prevent Iowa's Story County from releasing Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald's emails to the news outlet Politico on Tuesday.
In a batch of court filings, they argued the release could “seriously impede” plans for a single, interoperable network designed to resolve the communications problems that hampered responses to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks and other disasters.
Fitzgerald was appointed last year to serve on the board of FirstNet, which was created by Congress to develop and deploy the network and is housed in the Department of Commerce. Politico reported earlier this month that Fitzgerald has alleged that his fellow board members are tied too closely to the wireless industry and have not given enough input to public safety professionals in developing plans for the $7 billion network.
Politico asked Story County to release emails related to FirstNet that Fitzgerald sent and received through his county email.
U.S. District Judge James Gritzner approved a temporary restraining order Tuesday afternoon that blocks the records' release for 14 days.
Story County Attorney Stephen Holmes said he had agreed not to fight the temporary order as a courtesy but was still considering whether to seek the emails' release at a hearing that will be scheduled later. Politico declined comment.
The Justice Department said it had only done a preliminary review of the emails and found they include sensitive and confidential procurement, personnel and management information. The department warned that the information's “release likely would seriously impede FirstNet's ability to create a nationwide broadband network to be used by first responders in the event of national emergencies and national disasters.”
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.