Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Government Employee e-Mail Retention Requirements Consistently Flaunted

Eric Kelderman writes on

E-mail has become the communications tool of choice in the past decade, but imbroglios involving the governors of Missouri and Texas show that the rules of paperless messaging are still evolving and can create problems for state government.

A newspaper columnist’s request in August for e-mail records triggered a political maelstrom in Missouri, and an investigation by the attorney general. In the aftermath, Gov. Matt Blunt (R) has fired one member of his legal team and replaced his chief of staff and top lawyer.

Meantime, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is under fire from good government groups for his policy of deleting e-mail files after seven days. Perry’s woes are being exacerbated by an activist’s incessant demands for email records.

On one level, rules about how to preserve e-mail for public records have not caught up with the technology. Sunshine laws in 18 states do not refer to e-mail at all, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, an open government advocacy group. Even in states such as Missouri and Texas where laws or regulations explicitly require preserving some official e-mail, decisions on which emails to keep or discard vary by department and are sometimes left to individual employees.

More here.


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