Last week, I wrote about a countywide mass deletion of emails over 3 years old. According to the county, departments would be responsible identifying and storing important emails; by June 1, anything not archived would be purged from the system. Motivation for file clearance came from the IT Services Department because of slow access times, County Spokesman Rod Antone told me, and approval came from the administration. The County of Maui has not responded to a request to comment on how the scheduled deletion would comport with County Code Chapter 2.84, regarding record disposition.
On May 31, following MauiTime’s print article and a community response, we received reports that the mass email purge was canceled. “A lot of people were making some really bad assumptions unfortunately,” Antone told me in an email. “They don’t realize that this proposal came from the head of our IT Division who is not a political appointee. His only agenda is implement an email retention policy just as the other counties and the state has already done.”
A day later, Antone followed up. “So last and final policy on emails, we’re keeping them for ten years. This means the next mayor can check emails all the way back to the last two years of the Tavares administration.” This is great. Community members spoke out about an action they thought was not in their best interests for transparency and accountability, and the local government responded – credit where credit is due.
But we’re still far from a guarantee of proper record keeping. When I asked Antone whether county employees could still delete emails permanently, he responded that “Departments are responsible for storing important documents. IT does the deletion after they get the go ahead that the necessary documents have been stored.”
If emails are government records, as the county code seems to stipulate, there must be a legal process of review and committee oversight before so much as a baby shower invitation is trashed. With the capacity of technology and the need for public trust in today’s political climate, I hope we’d err on the side of safekeeping. After all, who knows what could someday be a needed record or piece of evidence?
Photographed flyer shows the original stance of the County and is no longer valid following the cancellation of the scheduled email deletion.