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Mayor Faulconer Postpones San Diego’s Email Deletion Policy

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On his first full day in office, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer postponed a newly announced policy of deleting all city emails older than a year. Former interim Mayor Todd Gloria said last week that the city would begin deleting year-old emails on March 28 as a cost-saving measure.

Gloria's announcement immediately caused outcry among journalists and open government advocates. That's because emails keep a record of what city officials and staff are doing, and by law those records are meant to be public.

But Faulconer, who took office officially Monday, quickly reversed the plan. His communications director Matt Awbrey announced on Twitter that Faulconer is putting the email deletion policy on hold "pending further review."

"All City emails will continue to be stored," he wrote.

Awbrey told KPBS a timeline has not yet been set for reviewing the new policy, and that emails will be stored until the review is finished.

Gloria's spokeswoman Katie Keach said the email deletion policy was drafted because the city hasn't allocated the $400,000 to $500,000 it would cost to continue archiving city emails.

While the email deletion policy was announced just a few days before Gloria handed over the mayor's office to Faulconer, Gloria had known about the archiving program for a while.

Keach said in an email that Jeff Leveroni, the city's former director of IT, raised the issue "early in the Interim Mayor's tenure." Leveroni no longer works for the city.

Between 2007 and 2009, the city transitioned to using a new email archive system called Nearpoint, Keach said. A 2008 memo from then-Mayor Jerry Sanders says that starting Dec. 22, 2008, all city emails older than 90 days will automatically be deleted, but will still be stored in Nearpoint.

Keach said the problem is not that the city is reaching the end of its allotted space for archived emails in Nearpoint, but that Nearpoint "is no longer supported by HP."

Because of this, she said, the city's IT department began looking for other solutions.

"Department of IT looked at utilizing HP's new email archive product called Autonomy," Keach wrote. "We also looked at an archive system by Symantec. Based on the City's current space allocation, these email achieve systems range in cost between $400,000 and $500,000 (licensing)."

Awbrey said the city will continue to use Nearpoint while the policy is reviewed.

But Ben Katz and Jed Sundwall, leaders of the advocacy group Open San Diego, say that price sounds too high. They wrote an open letter to Faulconer asking him to explore other options.

Katz said he surveyed several IT professionals who work outside the city, and none estimated an email archiving system would cost as much as $500,000. Katz said the cost of storing data drops regularly, and he thinks the city could be using old numbers.

"This is something we've been seeing with government IT procurement around the country, is that they're really bad at it," he said. "They use the same basic method for doing IT procurement as any other procurement. If you look at the cost of paving a road, it's probably about the same cost today as it was 10 years ago. But IT doesn't work that way at all. The cost of hard drive storage drops in half every 14 months. So you really can't go and say, 'hey we can do what we did five years ago and can we do that again for the same price?'"

However, the city might have unique security or legal needs that most businesses don't have to consider.

Keach said the city is in the process of transitioning to Microsoft Office365 Cloud, a new email system hosted by Microsoft.

This story has been updated to clarify Mayor Kevin Faulconer's actions on the email retention policy.


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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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