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E-mail panel proposes longer storage, better training

Posted May 15, 2008

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— A panel reviewing state government e-mail storage policies says messages should be kept longer and state employees should be better trained about public records law.

The committee of state officials, attorneys and former journalists approved its final recommendations to Gov. Mike Easley on Thursday. Easley created the panel following allegations that his press office had ordered the systematic deletion of government e-mails. Media outlets later sued.

“We need to preserve public record, including e-mails, including those (even) developed on your own private accounts. If it relates to state business, you need to save it,” committee chairman Franklin Freeman said.

The committee recommendations include:

  • Additional training for employees on the public records law
  • Archiving state records
  • Periodic records audits
  • Increasing the time data are backed up on the state system from 30 days to a minimum of 5 years

“I think these measures that we have recommended will do two things. One, it will let employees know what they are to do, and it will let the public know those records are available to them,” said Bryan Beatty, secretary of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

The panel doesn't propose changing the policy that lets workers determine whether an e-mail constitutes a public record and therefore must be saved.

“The buck has stopped with the person receiving the paper record or the e-mail record or any record they create, to save it, for the period of time the law requires it to be saved," Freeman said.

The committee also addressed BlackBerry hand-held units, laptops and home computers. They concluded that any public document created on those platforms must also be backed up on the state system.

The committee plans to present its recommendations to Easley by May 20.


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