Opinion: Flint water crisis a lesson for Colorado government email retention

From The Greeley Tribune: Imagine you live in Flint, Michigan, and it’s been your home for years.

You’ve just learned the drinking water the town has supplied for the past couple of years has been contaminated with lead.

Yes, the water you used to shower and wash your dishes, the water your children drank and used to brush their teeth, tainted.

You want answers. Frankly, you deserve answers. Everyone deserves answers.

Now it’s January 2016. Imagine as your local paper and TV news stations try to dig deep to find out what and how things went wrong by filing open records requests, the government comes back to those outlets and essentially says, “Sorry! Any emails before Sep. 1, 2015, were automatically deleted.”

You may still get answers, but likely they’ll always be incomplete.

That didn’t happen in Flint, but could unfortunately happen all too easily at Colorado’s state agencies.

Whether it’s a sign of the times, or whether it’s already outdated, the fact remains today that emails represent the largest “document” used to conduct the business of the people by our local, state, and federal governments. When we want to know how our elected officials and their staff conducted themselves, what they thought, why they did what they did, we most often turn to email in hopes the documents will fill in most of the puzzle.

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