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San Diego To Begin Deleting All City Emails Older Than One Year

Interim Mayor Todd Gloria announced in a memo on Thursday that the city will begin deleting all emails older than a year from its email system.

Todd Gloria Memo on Email Retention
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria's memo to city staff saying a new city policy will be to delete emails older than one year.
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The news was immediately met with skepticism and outrage from journalists and public watchdogs.

Terry Francke, executive director of government transparency advocate group Californians Aware, wrote in a letter to Gloria that the new policy "contravenes existing law."


"Emails clearly fall within the definition of a public record," he wrote. "Further, city records are required to be retained for a minimum of two years...Destruction of public records may also be punishable criminally."

Gloria's memo says the city will begin deleting emails older than one year on March 28, and will continue the process every day so that no emails older than a year will remain in the city's email system.

"E-mails deleted from the City’s E-mail Systems will be permanently unavailable unless City staff takes affirmative steps to retain them outside of the City’s E-mail Systems," he wrote.

"To date, the City has not deleted e-mails and this has resulted in our City E-mail Systems being overburdened," the memo said.

Gloria spokeswoman Katie Keach said in an email that the new policy is meant "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 e-mail retention period, we would need to look at replacing the archive system in the next fiscal year (and no funding was requested for FY 2015)," she wrote. "One time costs to replace our Nearpoint system range from $400k-$500k."

In 2008, Mayor Jerry Sanders announced the city started using Nearpoint, an email archive system, to store older emails. Sanders wrote that all city emails older than 90 days would automatically be deleted, but would still be stored in Nearpoint.

Keach added that San Diego's one-year retention policy would be far longer than those of other local governments, including San Diego County, which keeps emails for 60 days, and Phoenix, which keeps emails for 30 days.

Late Friday afternoon, City Councilman David Alvarez asked Gloria to docket the new email policy for discussion at City Council.

"I am troubled by the proposed implementation of this policy as I believe it conflicts with the spirit of several open government laws," Alvarez wrote.

Earlier this week, the City Council voted to table indefinitely an open government ballot measure that would in part require communication on all media, including emails and text messages, that concerns city business to be open to public records requests.