Nine months after Chalkbeat story, Jeffco schools finally working on an email retention policy

The Jefferson County School District is finally preparing a policy for the retention of emails used for official business by board members and employees, more than nine months after Chalkbeat Colorado reported that the district has no such policy.

Craig Hess, the Jeffco district’s chief legal counsel, told the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on Thursday that a policy is being drafted. His answer was in response to a question we asked about a letter sent this week by Colorado Ethics Watch, urging the district to adopt an email retention policy, as required by state law.

In her July 29 letter to the district, Ethics Watch Senior Counsel Peg Perl noted that a 1996 amendment to the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) mandates that records custodians adopt a policy for retaining, archiving and destroying emails and other digital records. The law lets each government determine what the policy should say.

The school board’s “refusal to adopt an email retention policy in the face of such clear mandatory language in a state statute is a flagrant, and apparently willful, violation of CORA,” Perl wrote.

She noted that the Colorado Association of School Boards offers a sample policy on electronic communications. Jeffco board members could adopt CASB’s sample policy at their next meeting, she suggested, and then take some time this fall to tailor it to their own specifications.

On Jan. 30, Chalkbeat quoted school board attorney Brad Miller as telling board members they needed a retention policy and he would be drafting one for the board to review. Not having a policy in place, Chalkbeat wrote, “means board members can delete any correspondence as they see fit until the board adopts a policy that spells out how long emails must be kept.”

Hess told the CFOIC there is no specific timetable for the board to review a draft policy.

Note: Colorado Ethics Watch and Chalkbeat Colorado are CFOIC member organizations.

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