Open government advocates are up in arms after San Diego’s mayor ordered city employees to delete all emails older than a year from the city’s systems.
The policy, announced last Thursday by Interim Mayor Todd Gloria, aims to balance the availability of information with the fiscal costs related to storage, but there is reason to believe the policy goes against open government laws in place.
In a letter to Gloria, Terry Francke, executive director of the transparency advocate group Californians Aware, wrote: “Emails clearly fall within the definition of a public record. Further, city records are required to be retained for a minimum of two years…Destruction of public records may also be punishable criminally.”
The city has yet to delete any emails, which has been the problem. Because of this, the city’s archive system has become overburdened and would need to be replaced in the next fiscal year if this were to continue at a cost of as much as $500,000, Gloria’s memo said.
Gloria’s memo says the city will begin deleting emails older than one year March 28, and will continue the process every day so that no emails older than a year will remain in the city’s email system.
“Emails deleted from the city’s email systems will be permanently unavailable unless city staff takes affirmative steps to retain them outside of the city’s email systems,” he wrote.
City council leaders have asked the mayor to delay putting the measure into place so it can be further discussed.