City of Indio mulling e-mail policy change

INDIO, Calif. - The City of Indio is considering a change to its e-mail retention schedule and it's drawing some criticism.  "What is a public record? What is part of a file, and what is part of a permanent record?" asked Indio City Manager Dan Martinez.  These are all questions members of the city staff may soon have to answer on their own.  

The new proposal calls for a change to the city's e-mail retention schedule. Typically, city governments are required to save city documents, including e-mails for 2 years, depending on the content.  Indio wants to make it 30 days.  "I think it's a very short period of time," said Steve Quintanilla, the city attorney for Desert Hot Springs and Rancho Mirage.  "I think it's probably a better practice to have them maintain for at least a minimum of 90 days." 

Martinez says the proposal asks employees to still save public records like construction contracts, letters to the mayor, anything that's official city business.  Anything beyond that, the city wants deleted after a month.  "More of a policy to encourage staff to maintain their e-mail system, because it's just weighing down our servers," said Martinez. 

While the policy may free up some server space, others see major potential problems.  With the strict guidelines of the state's Public Record Act and the federal Freedom of Information Act, some think it's too much to put on individual employees.  "I also think it's important that we do not leave it within the discretion of the particular staff person to decide," said Quintanilla.  

Martinez says he's received mixed reviews from city staff, something the council will consider before making a decision.  "We're not going to move to a policy like this until we're absolutely comfortable that our employees are fully trained and understand completely," said Martinez. 

If a city is unable to produce documents compliant with the Freedom of Information Act or the Public Record Act, they are subject to paying the legal fees of the attorney requesting them.  

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