The San Diego County of the California state has enforced a policy to destroy all the emails generated by its government workers under 60 days until or unless they are flagged for preservation.
The controversial decision of the San Diego County has attracted widespread attention with several coalitions of organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Law Foundation protesting against it.
The EFF says that there are certain provisions in states such as California wherein the public can request to gain access to a plethora of public records. But enforcing shorter retention periods such as 60 days followed by a complete deletion will make it impossible for the public to get hold of important information.
These public records provide information about the decisions made by public officials and how they choose to spend public money. With such crucial aspects being tied to the public records, the decision to delete emails within 60 days of generation makes it hard for the public to monitor the government.
A joint letter on behalf of several concerned groups’ has been addressed to the California Supreme Court requesting to grant a hearing in the case that involves Golden Door Properties while arguing that the short retention periods “thwart the government transparency measures enshrined in California law and the state’s Constitution.”
The letter addressed to Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, highlighted several key issues. Through the email destruction policy, the government is apparently destroying the public record of “officials’ correspondence” which makes it hard and unreliable to scrutinize the government’s actions.
Moreover, destroying emails is considered the destruction of public records, which is prohibited by law. The letter argues that, “a local agency cannot erase records in an effort to erase their status as public records on the basis that they are no longer ‘used’ or ‘retained’ in order to place them beyond the reach of the public.”
It was also said that San Diego County has already destroyed several thousand emails concerning substantial evidence concerning the ongoing case with the previously mentioned Golden Door Properties. The letter requests the court to dismiss the practices of the County and restore record preservation.