Group Will Sue Unless San Diego Email Deletion Policy Officially Reversed
Putting the city of San Diego's new email deletion policy on hold isn't good enough for open government advocacy group Californians Aware.
The organization sent a letter to Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Thursday threatening to sue if the proposed policy isn't repealed officially. They also want a promise that the policy won't be implemented in the future without some warning.
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. Californians Aware threatened to sue over the proposed policy and asked for a response by March 11. That response didn't come before Gloria ceded the mayor's office to Faulconer.
On Faulconer's first full day as mayor, his spokesman announced via Twitter that they were putting the policy on hold "pending further review."
Terry Francke, the lawyer for Californians Aware, said an announcement about city policy through Twitter isn't legally binding and wants more assurance that the policy won't be implemented.
"We've received no official confirmation of that and we certainly don't know what 'put on hold' means, how long or whether there's any commitment not to revisit this," he said. "So the letter we just sent is a reminder that we need some official confirmation one way or the other about what the mayor's going to do about this email policy."
Faulconer's office said in a statement that "the mayor's staff is continuing to explore alternative solutions that result in greater cost effectiveness and improved email retention. Because this policy is on hold and absolutely nothing will be purged from the city’s email system we are using this time to develop a thoughtful policy that includes input from interested parties and technology experts."
If the city does not respond to Californians Aware's letter by Wednesday, March 19, Francke said he will sue.
Cory Briggs, an attorney who represents the advocacy group San Diegans for Open Government, also sent a letter threatening to sue the city after the policy was first announced. Briggs then sent an email to Faulconer after the policy was put on hold asking for official confirmation that the policy would not be implemented and did not receive a response, so Briggs said he plans to file a lawsuit against the city early next week.
Francke said the policy to delete emails older than a year violates state law.
"Cities in particular must retain their records for a minimum of two years," he said. "What the city of San Diego proposes is to get rid of all emails older than a year. So there's a direct conflict there."
Francke said he believes many California cities are in violation of this state law because they do not store emails for two years, and said San Diego's proposed change is "an opportunity to attack the problem in a venue that has a lot of people watching and will get some attention to the issue."
Californians Aware also submitted a Public Records Act Request for all records about the proposed policy change or the deletion of emails less than one year old. The San Diego Reader also submitted this request, and reported that it generated little information about how the policy came about.