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State Agencies Keep Deleted Emails for Only Five Days

email-logoAccording to an AP report, members of Pennsylvania state agencies are instructed on how to deal with managing their state email inbox. Deleted emails are kept for only five days before they are deleted permanently.

This means they can no longer be accessed by the public or the press through the Right-to-Know law. For instance, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette used the Right-to-Know law to discover only five emails sent by the Ron Tomalis, the special education adviser to Gov. Tom Corbett who will officially resign on Tuesday.

Emily Grannis, a legal fellow with the Committee for Freedom of the Press, summarises the problem with this practice of allowing public officials and employees to delete their own emails.

“You’re leaving it up to the person who created the record to determine whether or not it needs to be archived. That’s a problem,” Grannis said.

Dan Egan, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Office of Administration, disagrees. He explained that most of the emails are “chatter” and not the sort of emails that could be considered public records. Still, transparency advocates do not understand why the emails must be permanently removed after five days.

“That’s an amazing amount of discretion to give every public employee who may not have any legal training,” said Melissa Melewsky, media counsel with the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.

“We could keep it for longer,” Egan said. “But there would be an additional expense for storage.”

Open government advocates around the country certainly believe that would be a useful expense. Interestingly, school districts across the state utilize systems that retain deleted emails for months or longer according to Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Administrators Association.

These reports raise a number of questions concerning whether important public records are being destroyed and who exactly gets to decide what are public records.

August 25th, 2014 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Harrisburg, Top Stories | 5 Comments

5 thoughts on “State Agencies Keep Deleted Emails for Only Five Days”

  1. moderate Republican says:

    Where does the law REQUIRE record reten
    tion?

  2. Whata Hypcorite says:

    This is blatant CYA and hypocrisy at it’s worst.
    AG Corbett toppled the Democratic Leadership in the house almost ENTIRELY based on e-mail evidence. He subpoenaed e-mails for several YEARS and PROSECUTED anyone who attempted to delete anything.
    I was there, and I’m telling you as a fact, Tom Corbett used e-mail as the foundation of his case in Bonusgate. It’s what got him elected, and he has egregiously been committing all the same “crimes” he put others in jail for.
    It’s mind boggling to me that he can so boldly get away with it all. Where are the investigative journalist out there? Why isn’t anyone connecting these dots? Just Google alone would be enough to put a slam dunk case together.

  3. basile says:

    “That’s an amazing amount of discretion to give every public employee who may not have any legal training,” said Melissa Melewsky, media counsel with the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.

    Mr. Corbutt , Better call Saul!

  4. elroy hirsch says:

    Tom Corbett and his team of prosecutors
    have forever changed the history of the Commonwealth.

    State employees will no longer retain email communications for fear of a future Tom Corbett claiming they conducted campaign meetings in the Capitol or of hiding ghost employees.

    The real damage was Corbett’s thumbing his nose at his own prosecutors. While they were conducting Grand Jury sessions, Corbett was abusing their prosecution right and wrong.

  5. David Diano says:

    Sounds like the Corbett administration knows they are going to lose and they want to delete all records that could expose them after Wolf administration takes over.

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