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Email retention policy needed to bring uniformity

Rep. Peggy Scott displays a thumb drive and a banker’s box to illustrate methods of record storage during her Feb. 28 presentation to the House Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee. Photo by Andrew VonBank
Rep. Peggy Scott displays a thumb drive and a banker’s box to illustrate methods of record storage during her Feb. 28 presentation to the House Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Government employees may not want to be too quick to clean up their email.

That’s the message of HF1185 that would require government entities in Minnesota to keep written and electronic correspondence for three years.

The House Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee approved the bill, sponsored by Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover), as amended, Tuesday. It goes next to the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee. There is no Senate companion.

“Currently, there is a hodgepodge of government retention policy in relation to electronic correspondence,” said Scott, the committee chair. “There needs to be uniformity so no [government] entity has to guess or simply choose what works best for them.”

John Mannillo, a member of the Saint Paul STRONG steering committee, spoke in support of the bill. “By allowing any city employee to unilaterally delete any email communication with only minimal training, we’re allowing truth to be buried and history to be erased.”

But Lenora Madigan, deputy commissioner at the Department of Administration, said HF1185 “would dramatically expand the amounts and type of data that an agency would retain … and could potentially diminish rather than enhance genuine transparency.”

Besides the three-year retention requirement, the bill would remove parts of current law that require only records that are “official,” created “in connection with the transaction of public business,” or part of an “official transaction” to be retained.

The bill would define what constitutes “correspondence,” something missing from current statute.

Excluded from the definition, under the amendment, would be “purely personal communications, announcements of social events, and unsolicited advertising or promotional material that bears no substantive relationship to the events, decisions, business, or functions of the agency, public authority, or political entity.”


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