More caution against city plan to purge emails

After Calaware, San Diegans for Open Government threatens lawsuit

Much of the money that the city plans to save by purging all year-old emails may be spent fighting lawsuits.

The policy change was announced in a February 27 memo to city employees. The reason, reads the memo, email storage is expensive and the city can save up to $500,000 if old emails are deleted.

The policy isn't going over so well with open-government advocates as well as some councilmembers.

Today, March 3, Cory Briggs, attorney for San Diegans for Open Government, sent a letter to incoming mayor Kevin Faulconer and city councilmembers threatening a lawsuit if the policy is adopted. On February 28, open-government advocacy group Californians Aware also spoke of possible legal action against the city.

Briggs claims the policy is illegal. “The government code prohibits cities — including charter cities — from destroying any 'record, document, instrument, book or paper' unless the records are at least two years old and are 'no longer required.'"

On top of that, the same section prohibits the destruction of records unless they are "reproduced, recorded or otherwise preserved."

Lastly, purging emails is just plain "stupid," according to Briggs. "Many legal issues that the city could face are subject to statutes of limitations allowing lawsuits to be filed more than two years after the disputes arise. A substantial amount of city business is conducted by email. To delete those messages before the limitations period expires is foolish and imprudent at best."

One day after the memo was made public, councilmember David Alvarez requested the policy be discussed by city council before implementation.

"I am troubled by the proposed implementation of this policy as I believe it conflicts with the spirit of several open government laws," stated Alvarez. "In the interest of the City's commitment to open and transparent government, I would request that you docket an item at City Council to discuss the Council's position on the implementation...prior to it taking effect."

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There should be a public hearing, with a time certain, at a meeting of the City Council before this duplicitous end-run "administrative rule" is put into place at the end of March.

Furthermore, our new strong Mayor Kevin Faulconer has been handed a gift -- an opportunity to show that he IS different from recent Republican mayors and is genuinely interested in keeping the community he serves fully informed.

Kevin can rescind this "rule" to expunge the public record and he should. If he chooses to show up at Council and make a speech about why this is essential to keep faith between his administration and the voters, that would be fine too. It's an opportunity for Kevin Faulconer to shine at the beginning of his term.

Glad that others are getting involved in this discussion since it has potential huge impacts to open government in San Diego!

I'd suggest that you read the comments posted here about this topic: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2014/feb/28/ticker-city-san-diego-purge-year-old-emails/

Also lets make sure that docket info. is available at council meeting/committee meetings, and that it not come out Fri.pm for a Monday/Tuesday docket. We the citizens like weekends too! It is shameful how quickly the bureaucrats set up a way to hide what is going on, and make laws so that we can't get the records to back up our questions of the government actions.

Even as a PRESS employee I was continually denied records, copies, and back up materials: oh we ran out, in a warehouse off site, your denied access by so & so dept., the mayor (Sanders) even tried to personally keep me out of his office open house!

They are so slimy, and want to always put off "open-record laws/legislation" COSTS TOO! much!, WHAT?!, it is our money and at least we would know where it is being spent, not some slush fund for wealthy donor, business buddies, and contractors!!

Something sure stinks, and it's not the odor of dead fish wafting in from the Salton Sea. It's this rotten-to-the-core idea to delete older City emails. Why not shred printed documents while they're at it, including faxes? That will save more storage money! Videos of Council meetings? Delete 'em!

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