FAC: Key settlement in FAC case breaks new ground in public access to officials’ emails
From the First Amendment Coalition (7/24/12): The First Amendment Coalition is pleased to announce a landmark settlement in a case involving public access to government email messages.
The agreement with the city of Auburn, California requires the city to save emails for at least two years–replacing a prior policy of deleting most emails after 30 days. The agreement, approved by the city today, also assures public access to emails about government business even when officials send or receive them using a private email account.
“This settlement sets a new benchmark for transparency in government communications,” said Karl Olson, lawyer for FAC and co-plaintiff Victoria Connolly, a community activist in Auburn. “While not perfect, the procedures agreed to by Auburn will show cities, school boards and other agencies how they can increase citizens’ access to information without adding to operating costs.”
Under the agreement, ending a lawsuit filed by FAC and Connolly in May, Auburn pledges to stop its practice of deleting most city emails. Currently, Auburn preserves only a handful of emails selected by employees, while deleting all others after 30 days. Similar policies have been adopted by most governments and agencies in California, although some wait longer–60 days or 90 days typically–before deleting emails systematically.