Lawsuit Opposes Destruction of Old San Diego City Hall Emails

The lawsuit was filed by attorney Cory Briggs for San Diegans for Open Government

As an advocacy group filed a lawsuit against a proposed policy that includes the deleting of all city emails that are more than a year old, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer officially rescinded the policy, citing a new era of open, transparent government for the City of San Diego.

The non-profit group, San Diegans for Open Government (SDOG), filed the lawsuit under the California Public Records Act.

On Feb. 27, 2014, interim Mayor Todd Gloria announced the adoption of a policy, known as “AR 90.67,” that would authorize the destruction of city emails that are more than one year old. According to the lawsuit filed by SDOG, the policy – which SDOG says is illegal – had been adopted internally by the city two weeks before this information was made public.

“Had someone not leaked the interim mayor’s announcement to the press, the public would not have found out about AR 90.67 until long after the email communications had been destroyed,” the lawsuit filed by attorney Cory Briggs, states.

When San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer took office earlier this month, the city announced Faulconer was placing the proposed policy on hold pending further review. Per the policy, the process of deleting vast amounts of city emails would have started on Mar. 28, lasting through Apr. 30.

On Tuesday, Faulconer announced he was officially rescinding the proposed email purge at city hall in an effort to keep transparency in city government.

"My mission is to increase openness and transparency at City Hall, and this is just one of the first steps," Faulconer said. "I reviewed the policy and believe the public's right to have access to City documents is worth the additional financial cost that will come with retaining these emails. In today's modern age, I believe San Diego can be a leader in using technology to increase transparency."

According to Faulconer, the City of San Diego switched to a new email system in January 2013 that allows the retention of City emails for an unlimited amount of time. However, the hurdle faced by the City has been how to store and maintain the information contained in two older email systems, including one with a significant amount of corrupted data.

Faulconer said his administration is now working with the City’s IT staff and leaders in the local tech community to find the most cost-effective way to store this older data in perpetuity.

“New cost estimates to store the old emails are being reviewed by City staff, with a majority of the expenses expected to be one-time,” stated a release from Faulconer’s office.

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