Eye On Sacramento calls for Moratorium on deletion of City of Sacramento e-mails

MEDIA RELEASE

June 29, 2015
Contact: Erik Smitt, Policy Director
916-215-2275

At a press conference today on the steps of Sacramento City Hall, leaders of Eye On Sacramento, a member of the community coalition pressing for robust ethics, transparency and redistricting reform of City government, called on City officials to halt the City’s announced plan to mass delete City e-mails on July 1st and to place a six-month moratorium on the deletion of City e-mails pending the ongoing and robust community conversation over needed reform of City government.

“The Ethics and Transparency Reform Project has drawn hundreds of City residents to public forums.  These forums held in every council district in the City over the past three months with the consistent message we received was loud and clear: the people of Sacramento want a major upgrade of ethics and transparency in their City government.  Even the City council has an ongoing initiative to upgrade City ethics and transparency.  For City officials to even entertain the idea of a mass deletion of millions upon millions of City e-mails dating back years in the face of this citizen-led reform movement is an affront to the will of the public and their aspirations for a more open, more responsive and more ethically accountable City government.” said Eye On Sacramento, Debra Desrosiers.

“We call on the mayor, the City council, the City manager and the City clerk to do the right thing, to do the responsible thing,  and stop the deletion.  The cost of electronic storage of e-mails has dropped to virtually nothing in recent years, imposing no burden on City government.  The cost of searching such e-mails to respond to the public’s request for records is a necessary cost of open government and democracy, not a reason to shred the history of the City, to frustrate the public’s legitimate access to public records or to stymie pending and future civil and criminal investigations into potential wrongdoing and lawbreaking by City officials,” said EOS Policy Director Erik Smitt.

Smitt added, “How many e-mails are City officials planning to trash?  Believe it or not, even City clerk Shirley Concolino has no idea how many would be deleted.”  “We have no way of knowing,” she stated in a recent e-mail to Craig Powell, President of Eye On Sacramento.

“We know from hearing from citizens at our forums that City government is operating with a major league trust deficit,” said Eye On Sacramento,  Erik Smitt.  “Citizen trust in City government, indeed, all levels of government, is at an all-time low.  We see it in falling participation rates in City elections and City meetings.  We see it in recent election results. We all hear it at the grocery store, in the coffee houses and around the dinner table.  Let’s be clear: there is no better way to rebuild the public’s trust in City government than to adopt meaningful ethics and open government reforms and there is no better way to further destroy that trust than to mass delete decades of City e-mails in the face of public calls for greater transparency in City government,” Smitt added.

As part of the press conference, EOS Policy Director Erik Smitt delivered a gift of a one-terabyte USB drive to the clerks at the public counter of the City clerk’s office, which provides enough storage space, he says, to store approximately 10 to 25 million e-mails, which EOS acquired for a total cost of $65.09

At least two citizens of Sacramento, with standing, have made Public Record Requests that include emails planned for deletion

Under the City’s new records policy, e-mails would be deleted two years after their transmission or two years after the project to which they relate is completed.

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Speakers included:

Erik Smitt, Policy Directory, Eye On Sacramento
Debra Desrosiers, Eye On Sacramento Board Member
Jean Fleury, Eye On Sacramento Board Member
Joe Rubin, Journalist and Investigative Reporter

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