Thousands of policy emails sought by state senator were deleted

KOAA News5 (Colorado Springs): Members of the Committee on Legal Services are looking into why thousands of emails requested by a State Senator were prematurely deleted. Senator John Cooke, (R) Greeley, sent a Colorado Open Records Act request on August 29 for emails from two state staffers who worked to accomplish Governor John Hickenlooper’s executive order establishing new Low Emission Vehicle standards.

“On September 4th, I received a letter back from CDPHE saying that the person that I wanted, Mike Silverstein, his communications and his electronic files; he no longer worked there, he resigned, and they deleted all of his emails and all of his electronic files,” Cooke said. “I was shocked, to be honest with you. I went from shocked to pretty upset.”

State sunshine laws consider emails to be public records with few exceptions. Additionally, state agencies are required to keep public records for a minimum of five years.

“Each individual agency can extend that if they want and CDPHE extended it another five,” Cooke explained. “So, they’re retention schedule is 10 years.”

A spokesperson for CDPHE confirmed that Michael Silverstein was employed at CDPHE for 23 years and ended his employment on August 24. He worked most recently as the Commission Administrative and Technical Secretary to the Air Quality Control Commission.

“Within 24-48 hours, they deleted all of his electronic files,” Cooke said. “Basically, it was thumbing their nose at the legislature.”

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