The California Public Records Act explicitly includes emails in the class of records which are open to public inspection. For some reason, though, many agencies are resistant to this idea and think that somehow emails are less recordy than more old fashioned kinds of records. This weird theory, along with the fact that the CPRA doesn’t impose any kind of obligation to retain records on agencies, has inspired bunches of agencies to establish absurdly short retention schedules for emails.
There are plenty of BIDs in the City of Los Angeles, for instance, which claim that they delete emails after 30 days. They’re lying, of course, but the fact that they say this makes it harder to prove that they’re illegally withholding records. And they are consciously adopting these policies to avoid having to comply with the CPRA. For instance, at the famous BID anti-CPRA seminar held by Carol Humiston last summer, she told attendees that:
You do not need to save most emails. If you want to preserve important information that was sent by email, print it out, make a copy, and delete it from your computer.
And evidently this is a problem all over California, although I’m guessing that it doesn’t take such a consistently extreme form outside of Los Angeles. Which is I guess the inspiration for the timely and most excellent AB 1184. Written by San Diego Assemblymember Todd Gloria, this bill would require that agencies retain emails for a minimum of two years.
If you support government transparency, and why would you be visiting here if you did not,1 well, I hope you’ll write or call your legislators and tell them to pass this damn bill. If you don’t know who they are you can find them here. And turn the page for some text!
Continue reading San Diego Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s Bill AB-1184 Would Require Public Agencies To Retain Email For No Less Than Two Years — Which Is Exceedingly Important — Many Of Them Use Absurdly Short Retention Periods Intentionally To Evade CPRA Obligations