San Diego could move to a relatively long 5-year email retention policy

Mayor Todd Gloria is proposing that San Diego drop its unusual city email retention policy forever and keep emails for five years, which he says would be the longest retention policy in the city. state and country.

Gloria says the proposed policy would maintain San Diego’s status as a very open and transparent city, while saving money and speeding up requests for public records by allowing millions of emails dating back to 2008 to be deleted. .

“This policy I am proposing for the City of San Diego to retain email for five years demonstrates our commitment to transparency while managing taxpayer dollars responsibly,” Gloria said.

The government watchdog group Californians Aware praised Gloria on Monday for coming up with a retention policy that is more than twice as long as the two-year policies adopted by most cities.

But the group stressed that Gloria is only proposing that San Diego do what is appropriate and necessary to make government transparent and democracy work well.

“It would just be San Diego complying with what people already expect of them,” said Kelly Aviles, CalAware’s general counsel. “That’s really how the public can participate in government.”

Gloria’s proposal is expected to be discussed by the city council’s rules committee on Wednesday at a meeting scheduled for 2 p.m.

Council Chairman Sean Elo-Rivera, chair of that committee, said Monday he was still evaluating Gloria’s proposal.

“Record retention is essential to our commitment to good government and accountability, but we must balance this with the constraints presented by the City’s current indefinite email retention policy,” Elo-Rivera said.

A five-year retention policy is a significant change for Gloria. As acting mayor, he proposed in early 2014 that San Diego begin phasing out email after one year due to cost concerns.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who took over as mayor in March 2014, scrapped that idea and created a task force that came up with a variety of options that failed to gain traction.

So far, no other proposals have emerged for the city to move away from keeping emails forever.

Gloria staff met with local media companies and the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists during the proposal development process.

Kelly Davis, chair of the SPJ board of directors, welcomed the proposal on Monday.

“A minimum retention period of five years is a great starting point,” she said. “We look forward to offering more feedback as this policy works its way through City Council.”

Gloria staff also analyzed the email retention policies of other local government agencies. Los Angeles retains emails for three years. Two-year policies are in place in Carlsbad, La Mesa, El Cajon, National City, Poway, and the San Diego Unified School District.

The San Diego County government and some local cities retain emails for 60 days.

State law dictates that emails, which are classified as public records, must be retained for two years. But the law provides exceptions for records deemed unnecessary or inconsequential, and some agencies have decided that allows them to delete routine emails sooner than the two-year requirement.

Under Gloria’s proposal, dispute-related emails would not be deleted, regardless of their age. Additionally, his proposal would not change a city policy requiring a 10-year retention for emails important enough to be considered a city record.

The city sends and receives about 90 million emails a year, making indefinite retention of emails costly and making the city’s efforts to comply with public records requests cumbersome and time-consuming, Gloria said.

Additionally, emails from before 2014 are part of an archaic system that is much harder to find. Some email searches in response to public records requests take longer than 24 hours, the mayor said. And the number of requests for public records received by the city each year has increased from 1,954 in 2015 to 6,578 in 2021.

Moving to a five-year retention would reduce the city’s costs over the next five years by $1.48 million to $266,000, according to Gloria staff estimates.

Gloria proposes that city staff be trained this fall on the new policy, which would come into effect in February 2023.

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