We relayed recently that open government advocates were alarmed by the revelation that an Anaheim Planning Department official ordered employees to delete old documents from city files. The Voice of OC subsequently reported that a similar memo had been sent by an Anaheim Community Preservation Manager who told workers “not to archive emails for any purpose." Similarly, the memo also included a threat about disciplinary action if city emails were archived. You can read the second email message here.
Such city records must be kept for two years and can only be destroyed after authorization by the City Council, according to state law. Both of the aforementioned memos were sent out after a records request was made by the Voice of OC.
Originally city officials argued that the memos were merely a reminder of the city’s retention policy, but Mayor Tom Tait eventually issued a statement on the matter:
“The City has a retention schedule and administrative regulations for the management of public records in accordance with state laws. Unfortunately, these emails within the Planning Department and the manner in which they were articulated were a mistake. We are taking corrective action to assure this does not happen again.”
In another update, this week the mayor directed staff to review the city’s retention policy with respect to records to verify compliance with the law. The city plans to examine its email policy since reportedly many are deleted automatically after 30 days. The Voice of OC points out that “Anaheim is but one of a number of cities in Orange County that purge emails in as little as 30 days, a Voice of OC investigation in 2010 found. First Amendment experts said the cities are violating state records laws. After receiving legal threats from CalAware, the city of Irvine reformed its records policy to archive emails identified as "business records" for two years.”