Kevin Faulconer's decision to suspend a city policy to delete all city emails one year or older was good news for open-government advocates. But since that announcement, the mayor and city staff have been silent; not so good news for open-government advocates.
In response to the lack of response, the nonprofit Californians Aware (aka CalAware) has delivered an ultimatum: formally repeal the email retention policy, pledging not to pursue it later down the road, or, spend city resources and taxpayer money to allow city attorney Jan Goldsmith and his staff defend the policy.
"While we have read statements in the press that this procedure has been 'put on hold,' we have never received an official response," reads a March 13 letter from lead counsel for Californians Aware, Terry Francke.
"Further, although we are unsure what 'put on hold' means, it certainly is not an unconditional commitment that the plan or regulation will not be implemented. Finally, the City Attorney has taken the position that such a policy would be legal. We disagree that it would be legal, either on its face or as applied."
The nonprofit is giving Faulconer until March 19 to respond or legal papers will be filed.
In addition, the letter included a public records request for all "reports, policies, procedures, and communications."
So far, public records requests have turned up little information as to how the policy came about. As reported by Don Bauder on March 10, perennial thorn in local government's side, Pat Flannery, requested to see who signed off on it. The policy showed that a number of high-ranking elected officials signed, and so did the city auditor, ethics commissioner, city clerk, chief operating officer, and independent budget analyst.
The Reader submitted its own request, asking for any correspondence to and from then–interim mayor Todd Gloria mentioning the policy. Gloria's office had little new information other than an email from Jacqueline Palmer, "Confidential Secretary to Scott Chadwick, Chief Operating Officer," asking for Gloria's signature.
"I have another draft memo for the Interim Mayor's signature, should he approve the text. He should be expecting this one."
The city attorney's office has not yet responded to the request.
Update 2/14, 10:30 a.m.: Statement from the mayor's office: "Mayor Faulconer's staff is continuing to explore alternative solutions that result in greater cost effectiveness and improved email retention. We will keep you apprised."
Update 2/14, 1:05 p.m.: Some councilmembers are taking it upon themselves to ensure their emails remain in the system for more than one year. On March 11, councilmember David Alvarez issued a memo requesting that if the policy goes into effect, any emails to and from his office not be deleted:
"I request that this policy not be applied to emails to and from my office and that the City IT department retain my office's emails under the City's current guidelines for email retention."