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Mayor Faulconer Rescinds San Diego Email Deletion Policy

This story has been updated.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer officially rescinded the city's proposed policy of deleting all city emails more than a year old a day after advocacy group San Diegans for Open Government filed a lawsuit against the city over the policy.

Open government group Californians Aware had also threatened to sue over the policy.

In a statement, Faulconer said his action is "just one of the first steps" in his mission to increase openness and transparency at City Hall.

“I reviewed the policy and believe the public’s right to have access to City documents is worth the additional financial cost that will come with retaining these emails," he said. "In today’s modern age, I believe San Diego can be a leader in using technology to increase transparency.”

The original policy, which was outlined in an internal memo sent by interim Mayor Todd Gloria, created a furor among journalists and open government advocates.

On Faulconer's first full day as mayor, Matt Awbrey, a spokesman for Faulconer, announced via Twitter that they were putting the policy on hold "pending further review."

Gloria originally said emails needed to be deleted because the city hadn't budgeted the $400,000 to $500,000 it would cost for an email storage system.

Awbrey said city staff is still reviewing the costs of storing emails. The city switched to a new email system, Microsoft Office365, in January, that he said will store all city emails going forward. He said the majority of the cost comes not from storing emails sent through the new Microsoft system, but from transferring emails from the old systems, NearPoint and GroupWise, to the new Microsoft Office365 system.

The city is working with Microsoft on this transfer, Awbrey said.

Faulconer only learned about the proposed email deletion policy through Gloria's announcement, which came just two days before Faulconer took office, Awbrey said.

Cory Briggs, the lawyer for San Diegans for Open Government, said he has not yet decided whether to drop his lawsuit against the city over the policy.

"We do not yet know whether the mayor's actions signal a real change in how the city handles record retention, or whether this was a stunt to make this lawsuit go away," Briggs said. "Until we have a conversation with the mayor and have his assurances that this wasn't just a stunt to avoid having to explain the city's policy in court, the lawsuit won't go away."

Donna Frye, president of Californians Aware, said her group will not proceed with its lawsuit.

"There's no need. They responded to the litigation," she said.

This story originally listed the wrong date for when San Diegans for Open Government filed its lawsuit against the city. It has been corrected.

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Avatar for user 'aztec69'

aztec69 | March 18, 2014 at 12:24 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Did anybody ever report exactly how much the City is spending to store all that verbage?

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Avatar for user 'Claire Trageser'

Claire Trageser, KPBS Staff | March 18, 2014 at 1:46 p.m. ― 3 years ago

aztec69, we've reported that the city said it would cost between $400,000 and $500,000 to store all old city emails, though some technologists argued it would cost less. Faulconer's office says they're still working out how much it will cost under their new email system.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | March 18, 2014 at 9:53 p.m. ― 3 years ago

With this gang we have at city hall, WORTH EVERY PENNY!!

Who knows what kind of shady deals and corrupt back room deals will stand to be uncovered.

I think Mr. Alvarez is the only honest guy down there. Too bad San Diegans were too stupid too elect him our mayor.

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