AG Backed Email Purge Policy Before Rejecting It
Also from the Morning Memo:
AG Eric Schneiderman raised eyebrows and won praise yesterday after he decided to suspend the controversial 90-day email purge policy that has existed in his office since at least 2007 (or maybe even longer) and directed his counsel to come up with a new email retention policy.
The announcement came after several state lawmakers introduced legislation that would create a new email retention policy for the state, requiring that online communications be preserved for at least seven years – much like how the federal government currently operates.
About two hours after news of Schneiderman’s suspension broke, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chief spokeswoman, Melissa DeRosa, issued a statement announcing the governor will “convene a meeting” with representations from the Legislature, and the AG and state comptroller to come up with a uniform email and FOIL policy that applies to all state officials and agencies.
Cuomo did not, however, follow Schneiderman’s lead in suspending the current – and much-maligned – purge policy, which he has implemented across executive agencies, while he and other officials try to figure out a better way to address the retention issue.
There has been a lot of finger pointing involved with this issue – especially as the subject of preserving emails and making them public has become a very hot topic, thanks to the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server based in her Westchester County home to conduct public business while she was secretary of state.
While it appeared that Schneideman’s office was merely continuing a policy put in place by his predecessors, internal documents obtained through a FOIL request indicate that’s not actually the case.
First – a word about the timeline on the 90-day purge policy. According to the AG’s office, it had been in place since 2007, which was the first year Cuomo served as AG.
But a 2007 memo to members of the AG staff on email retention and disposition policy indicates the effort to manage email retention actually dates back to at least 2005, which was when Eliot Spitzer was in charge of the office.
That same memo says the AG’s office was guided by general policies established by the state Archives and then-Gov. Spitzer, whose former top aides have (anonymously) disputed that a policy permanently deleting emails after a 90-day period ever existed.
“Former Attorney General Spitzer attempted to streamline the system in 2005 by reducing allowable megabytes. That method proved too difficult to implement,” the memo states.
“As Governor, he is now modernizing the e-mail communication system by imposing a 90-day time limit for retention of e-mails. We are conforming our policy to match that of the Executive.”
At the time, officials were concerned that saving too many emails would result in an “overloaded and underproductive” system and a volume that “overwhelms the capacity of our technology.”
Considerable advancements have been made on that front, with nearly unlimited storage space for online documents now readily available and also affordable.
According to a 2014 memo, the AG’s office took a hiatus from the 90-day purge policy that lasted about three years, thanks to a switch from GroupWise to Microsoft Outlook.
In May 2014, the office decided to re-implement the policy, noting that agencies statewide had adopted it under now-Gov. Cuomo, and the AG’s office was “ready to move back to this best practice.”
“Although retaining emails in Outlook can be a convenient way to store information for future reference, it is not a sustainable document management approach,” reads the memo to the AG’s staff from his chief operating officer, Shanti Nayak.
“Today, OAG is storing vast amounts of email data on our servers. This is difficult to manage at both the individual and organizational level, is slowing down our email systems and is causing us to retain many emails that do not need to be preserved under law.”
Nayak’s memo also notes that under this system, all litigation holds – automatically preserved by the AG’s IT department without action necessary by individual users – would continue.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on March 13, 2015 at 7:06 am, and is filed under Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, Eric Schneiderman. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|
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