LB City Hall Allowed Deletion Of Public Record Emails Of High Level City Elected And Mgm't Department Heads 30 Days After They Exited, Implemented By City Contract With Third Party Entity; Did City Hall Violate Its Own Law Requiring Specific Procedures Before Public Records Destruction?
|(April 10, 2017, 5:35 p.m.) -- LBREPORT.com has learned that the City of Long Beach allowed the deletion of email public records of high level elected and management officials -- that could document their actions and communications on multiple items of the public's business -- within 30 days of their retirement/exit from City elected or employment positions under the terms of an agreement with a third party email-management vendor.
The City Attorney's office indicates the emails were deleted under a City Hall approved contract with a third party entity, entered into by the City at some time in or after 2014. City Hall's actions raise questions about whether the City respected, or flouted, its own City Council enacted law (cited below) enacted in 2006 to prevent the destruction of public records involving the Mayor, City Councilmembers, other elected officials and city department heads unless the City follows specific rules and procedures.
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In an email to LBREPORT.com today (April 10, text below) in response to our inquiries (Mar. 15, reiterated April 7), Assistant City Attorney Mike Mais states:
[Ass't City Att'y Mais April 10 email] In 2014, the City of Long Beach migrated from the Lotus Notes system to MS365 (Outlook/Exchange) as its email solution. The City does not treat the MS365 email system as a records management system.
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, Long Beach has a Municipal Code ordinance -- enacted in 2006 by voted action of the City Council -- to prevent the destruction of public records of elected city officials including the Mayor, Councilmembers, any other electeds and the heads of city departments unless the City follows certain specific procedures. (The ordinance was advanced by then-entering Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, who found 5th district Council records of her predecessor had been destroyed.)
LB Municipal Code Section 1.28.010 provides: "[title] Records survive transition of officials. [text] All documents prepared, received or maintained by the office of the Mayor, City Councilmembers, by any elected City official, and by the head of any City Department, are the property of the City. The originals of these documents shall be maintained consistent with State law and the records retention policies of the City as set forth in the City Charter, and by administrative regulation." [LBREPORT.com attaches the City's administrative regulation here for reference.]
In December 2016, LBREPORT.com requested certain emails from former Councilwoman Schipske regarding a LB Airport matter. In February 2017, the City's Records Coordinator informed us that "Schipske's electronic mailbox was deleted 30 days after her term ended." We brought this to the attention of the City Prosecutor's office for its handling and presumed it was an isolated matter.
We then subsequently learned in March 2017 (from a brief mention near the end of a PressTelegram story on Queen Mary maintenance) that City officials had indicated that "all communication [with the city's now-retired economic and property development director] was deleted one month after he retired in August ."
Based on the foregoing, we now believe the deletion of public record emails was extensive. From the time period indicated above, we presume public record emails deleted may include those of former Councilmembers Suja Lowenthal, Gary DeLong, Patrick O'Donnell, James Johnson and Steven Neal; it's unclear if they include now-former Councilman Garcia who exited that office in mid-July 2014 in taking office as Mayor) and Mayor Bob Foster (who exited office in mid-July 2014.)
This story is still developing. Further to follow on LBREPORT.com. .
Text updated April 12. 3:40 p.m.: For clarity, added "under the terms of an agreement with a third party email-management vendor" to initial sentence to clarify City action was under City Hall approved contract with a third party entity, stated in second sentence.
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