Controversy over e-mail retention in Washington, D.C.

There’s a lively and fast-moving debate in Washington, D.C. right now over how long the city will retain e-mails. The story was brought to our attention by the folks at Open The Government.

Over the last several months, the Mayor of D.C. has advocated a policy of permanent deletion of e-mails after what many FOIAers would consider a relatively short period of time. A number of documents, and the current policy, are available here.

Part of what I’m hearing about this story is that those in D.C. government who want a shorter retention schedule are justifying this by claiming that other cities and local governments have similarly short retention schedules. Is that true? If anyone reading wants to check with their city government about whether it has an e-mail retention policy and, if so, what the policy is, that could be very helpful.

We’ve also heard that the Chair of the D.C. City Council held a press conference this morning where he announced that he was going to introduce a bill, co-sponsored by a Republican, to reverse the Mayor’s deletion policy.

One D.C. blog that has been covering this is D.C. City Desk. (Scroll down to fourth news item.)

If D.C. gets away with a bad policy, it might spread to other cities, so this is important for bloggers and journalists everywhere to keep an eye on.

Update: Fenty drops plan to purge city e-mails.

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