The City of San Diego is running out of space to store all those old emails — internal emails between staff and elected officials and correspondence from constituents. To remedy that, city officials have opted to purge any emails from city servers that were sent or received more than one year ago.
The first purge is set to begin on March 28.
The reason: email retention is getting expensive, say city officials.
A city memo posted by Voice of San Diego's Scott Lewis reads: "In developing an email retention policy, there was a need to balance availability of information with the fiscal costs related to its storage. If the City of San Diego were to continue with an indefinite email retention policy, we would need to look at replacing the archive system in the next fiscal year. Onetime costs to replace our Nearpoint system range from $400K-$500K."
The memo then justifies the decision by noting that San Diego County only keeps their emails around for 60 days. The City of Phoenix for only 30 days.
So, a year is not all that bad, right? Wrong, says open government non-profit Californians Aware (Calaware). In fact, it's against the law.
In a February 28 memo, Calaware's lead council Terry Francke delves into the issue.
"This policy contravenes existing law. 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 punished criminally."
Francke and Calaware are requesting that interim-mayor Todd Gloria rescind the order to delete the emails. If not, writes Francke, a judge might have to.
"...we request that you respond confirming agreement to, at the very least, suspend this practice until we have had time to seek judicial intervention if necessary."
Francke is giving Gloria until March 11 to respond or he will file an injunction against the city to rescind the policy.
Access to public records has become a hotbed issue in San Diego over the past two years. During that time, several lawsuits have been filed against the city. Three of which, one against interim-mayor Todd Gloria and two others against city attorney Jan Goldsmith, accuse the officials of not turning over emails from their personal email address relating to city business.
Both cases are making their way through court. And while the do, some city councilmembers are already up in arms over the proposed email purge.
Councilmember David Alvarez has asked that Gloria and incoming-mayor Kevin Faulconer hold off on the new policy.
"I am troubled by the proposed implementation of this policy as I believe it conflicts with the spirit of several open government laws," reads a February 28 memo from 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."