Advocacy Toolkit: Email Retention

Background

The General Record Retention Schedule, adopted by a majority of cities, contains 29 categories with over 700 specific types of records. Emails that fall under one of these categories are retained for a specified amount of time. However, most emails are transitory and of short-term interest (e.g., confirmation of time and location of a city meeting). All emails that have not been destroyed, regardless of a city’s records retention schedule, must be reviewed when responding to a data request or discovery process.

Proposed legislation establishes new laws for records retention that apply to electronic records, such as email, without regard for existing record retention schedules that categorize records based on content. For example, under current law, a resident email about a neighbor’s property is a government record and will be retained for seven years, while an email requesting a lunch order is considered “transitory” and can be deleted once read.

Problems

  • A backlog of transitory emails takes up memory and will affect efficient operation of city computers.
  • As emails from every city employee accumulate, searching for emails when responding to data requests or litigation will become exponentially more difficult.
  • Additional staff time needed for records review, as well as maintenance and replacement of adequate equipment, will add significant cost to a city’s bottom line.
  • Small cities may not have systems in place to comply with the proposed legislation.

Resources

What can I as a city official do to help?

Please let League staff (see contact info at right) know when you have done any of the above advocacy efforts (or if we can help you with any of the above).