Arroyo Grande’s policy states that email messages “should only be retained for as long as needed to accurately document city functions and to help create a historical record. This means deleting messages soon after they have been read, sent or printed and kept in a record keeping system.”
The system is set up to automatically delete messages more than 180 days old; messages in the trash folder are deleted after 14 days.
The policy dates to 2006 and “has been identified as one that needs to be substantially updated to reflect current information technology infrastructure and practices,” City Clerk Kelly Wetmore said.
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Atascadero’s policy states that emails not deemed a public record should be deleted within 90 days. The policy leaves it up to each city employee to determine what is considered “city business.”
Non-record emails are defined as “correspondence not relating to city business, messages that do not set policy, establish guidelines or procedures or document city business (and) routine email messages comparable to telephonic communications.”
Public record emails include “policies and directives, correspondence and memoranda relating to official business (excluding duplicates), agendas and minutes of meetings, any documents that initiates, authorizes or completes a business transaction and final reports and recommendations.” Public records should be retained in hard copy or electronically.
Grover Beach’s email policy was put in place in December 2013, about seven months after a county grand jury concluded that Grover Beach residents couldn’t easily contact their elected officials via email because the city didn’t provide official city email addresses for each council member.
City officials disputed this contention because it provided an email address for the entire council. The City Council approved an email policy a few months later.
It specifies that email messages should be purged manually at least once a week because the email system is not designed to retain messages long-term. “Email that the employee desires to save or that becomes part of an official record should be printed and/or stored in another database,” it states.
Messages that have been deleted will be wiped from the city’s computer server after 30 days.
Council members and city employees determine if an email is an official city record. The city doesn’t have a policy specifying how long emails are to be kept.
A 2012 resolution states, “city emails are intended to fulfill the same general function as ordinary daily verbal communications among City Council and city staff and are considered ‘transitory’ documents (work-in-progress), and therefore are not subject to records retention requirements.”
Emails are kept only as long as needed, and the city attorney can help determine which should be deemed official city records. Those must be printed out and saved.
“City Council members and employees are encouraged to delete documents that are not otherwise required to be kept by law or whose preservation is not necessary or convenient to the discharge of your duties or the conduct of the city’s business,” the resolution states.
The resolution does state that emails are subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act.
The email system does not automatically delete emails at a specific time, City Clerk Dana Swanson said.
Paso Robles has a records retention policy adopted by the City Council in 1995 and a separate email and internet use policy from 1998, but city officials say the policies are outdated and they instead rely on the state’s government code.
The city doesn’t have a specific email retention policy, Assistant City Manager Meg Williamson said.
The 1998 policy dictates that the city’s computer systems and the contents are the sole property of the city and that “communications sent over the system may be subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act or litigation.”
Further, there is no formal policy for deletion after a certain number of days.
“We have the ability to search emails by key words, subject matter, recipients, timeframes, etc. And we have applied these searches when we respond to certain public records requests,” Williamson said. “Of course, all emails produced from those searches are screened to ensure that any privileged information is not disclosed.”
Pismo Beach does not have a specific policy in place governing email retention. Electronic communication, including email, is addressed in the city’s personnel policy, City Clerk Elaina Cano said.
The policy states that messages sent or received on city equipment may be saved and reviewed by others, and as a result, city employees have no expectation of privacy in such messages.
The policy does not specify how emails should be managed.
San Luis Obispo
Email messages are subject to the same retention requirements as other city documents (a separate “records retention schedule” details how long specific documents are to be kept).
Emails not deemed records or that are considered works-in-progress are not subject to the retention rules, according to the city’s email policy, approved in 2007.
The policy states that emails that are not records should only be retained for as long as needed – in many cases, deleting them as soon as they have been read or sent because mailboxes are limited to 600 megabytes. Deleted files are erased after 30 days.
Messages that are kept should be stored on a network drive or folder, or printed and filed, the policy states. The records retention policy was approved in 2001 and updated in 2009.
San Luis Obispo County does not have a specific policy regarding retention of emails, County Counsel Rita Neal said.
“There are numerous statutes that address document retention and many county departments have separate retention schedules,” she said. She said county staff is currently reviewing the retention schedules, which will include an analysis of how long emails should be kept.
The county does have an overall policy that addresses employee use of computers and regularly reminds employees that any writing created in the course of county business is potentially a public record.