Friday, January 18, 2008

Sheriffs email deletion violates law, smells of coverup

Given that the emails which so embarrassed Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal were generated in a lawsuit alleging a cover up for misconduct at the Sheriff's office, who really believes that the timing of a brand new Harris County Sheriff's policy to delete all email after 14 days is really a "coincidence"? Reports the Houston Chronicle ("Sheriffs office email purge catches some deputies off guard," Jan. 18):

Under state law, local governments and their departments must retain correspondence related to the department's administration for two years and correspondence about policies and program development for five years. ...

Austin lawyer Bill Aleshire, a volunteer with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said he has noticed more local and state entities are enacting e-mail destruction policies.

The policies, he said, violate portions of the Texas Government Code if officials are deleting e-mails that relate to official county business.

"People under the Texas Public Information Act have a right to access to public information," Aleshire said. "If government agencies are destroying that information, they're interfering with the rights under the public information act."

Gov. Rick Perry's office has begun deleting e-mails every seven days, and a number of school districts delete e-mails every two weeks. None of the policies has been challenged by lawsuits, Aleshire said.

He also expressed doubt about arguments that deleting e-mails is primarily done to save electronic storage space.

"You don't have enough storage capacity to keep all the records when the records retention policy says you should, then you should get a bigger computer," Aleshire said. "Storage on computers is amazingly cheap."

Other county departments are not following the sheriff's lead.

Individual departments can develop their own policies. But Steve Jennings, the county's chief information officer, said he knew of no other departments purging e-mails after two weeks.

If you really believe this new policy wasn't a reaction to Chuck Rosenthal's email scandal, we should talk - there's a bridge across Buffalo Bayou I'd like to sell you.

4 comments:

rage said...

I think we're beyond smells here. The only thing that makes me think this is not a cover up is that this would be the absolute dumbest thing in the world to do right now. Surely nobody is this dumb. They can't be.

W. W Woodward said...

Rage,

These people are not dumb. They’re arrogant. They will do anything they want under the rational that, “I can do it because I say I can.” They believe it’s easier to, “beg forgiveness than to ask permission.” “After all, they can’t very well undo what I’ve already done.”

Unfortunately, we are living in an age when the people we elect, or are appointed, to offices of public trust swear an oath to uphold the constitution and laws of the nation and state and then take it upon themselves to do everything in their assumed powers to circumvent those very statutes in the name of expediency.

They will continue to do so as long as we let them get away with it.

rage said...

Well, Wayne Dolcefino is on to them now. Filed the lawsuit and got a TRO against this policy. He'll get some dirt on them if nayone will. Funny little reporter...

Anonymous said...

Be sure to look for deleted emails in a folder labeled, "Brady"