Opinion: In Colorado, emails vanish

From The Denver Post:  By Vincent Carroll

Hillary Clinton has cynically and clumsily awakened America to the importance of retaining government e-mails as public documents. But the federal government is hardly the only place where electronic records of official business should be preserved.

It should occur in Colorado, too, and yet usually doesn’t.

Oh, sure, the Colorado Open Records Act explicitly lists electronic mail among public documents. And it mandates governments to “adopt a policy regarding the retention, archiving, and destruction of such records.”

But what if the policy adopted basically results or even encourages the short-term, permanent purging of government e-mails?

Unfortunately, that is the current state of affairs under the Hickenlooper administration.

Todd Shepherd of CompleteColorado.com may have been the first to notice. He broke a story early last year documenting, through e-mails, that U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s office had been upset with the Colorado Division of Insurance over how it characterized health care cancellation notices. When Shepherd sought additional e-mails generated by state officials, he was told they no longer existed and couldn’t be recovered.

E-mails from late 2013 couldn’t be recovered? In this era of cheap and essentially limitless storage, why aren’t e-mails retained for years, if not for good?

Shepherd recently teamed up with the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition (CFOIC), a group dedicated to “protecting the public’s right to know,” to query state agencies regarding their policy toward e-mail retention. The findings are disturbing. 

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