Will Deleted Emails Be a Bombshell in the Boston Mayoral Race?

14 Sep
September 14, 2009

Several candidates running to unseat Boston Mayor Tom Menino are calling for a criminal investigation into reported violations of public records laws due to deleted emails, said New England Cable News.  The claims include that the deleted emails represent a "culture of dishonesty" and a "deliberate scrubbing of messages."  Boston city officials state that the email deletions were unintentional.

With so many email archiving companies based in eastern Massachusetts (including InBoxer), you would hope that our local governments would be careful to maintain detailed email archives.  But, that does not seem to be the case for our neighbors in Boston.

"City employees were routinely deleting emails, a potential violation of the state public records law," stated the Boston Sunday Globe.  According to reports, some city officials deleted their emails every day and purged their deleted items folder.  If the deletions were completed before the end of the day, the messages did not appear in the long-term archive, the reports indicated.

The allegations began after the Boston Sunday Globe reported that it filed several requests for emails sent and received by Michael J. Kineavy, Mayor Thomas Menino’s Cabinet chief of policy and planning, a senior, influential role.   But a search of city computers found just 18 emails he had sent or received between Oct. 1, 2008, and March 31 of this year.  The Globe also reported on other deleted emails from other city officials.

"Kineavy, who is also one of the mayor’s chief political advisers and a strategist on Menino’s reelection campaigns since 1993, told them that he deletes all his emails on a daily basis, in such a way that they are not saved on city backup computers, administration officials said," according to the Globe.

"The improper deletion of email is a violation of the public records law. Period,’’ said Secretary of State William F. Galvin.  The Globe said that the state public records law requires municipal employees to save electronic correspondence for at least two years, even if the contents are of “no informational or evidential value.’’ The only emails that can be deleted are those containing completely inconsequential information, such as spam or questions about lunch orders.

The timing could not be worse for the Menino administration as the mayoral election is right around the corner.  The Globe further reports:

City councilors Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon, both candidates in the upcoming mayoral preliminary election, said they would ask Attorney General Martha Coakley and Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley to investigate the deletion of emails by officials in Menino’s administration.

Flaherty, in a statement, said the practice smacked of a “culture of dishonesty’’ in the Menino administration,’’ while Yoon issued a similar statement characterizing the controversy as “case in point’’ for term limits and greater checks on the power of the mayor of Boston.

Dear City of Boston:  My office is located about 20 minutes from City Hall.  Our company would be happy to help you have an effective email archive.

3 replies
  1. William Toll says:

    Did they not learn when Bush and the White House lost email? Email for government entities should be archived at the gateway.

    Reply
  2. thezak says:

    Ask your favorite City Councilor for the stenographic machine record of the last public meeting of Boston City Council. The City Stenographer’s stenographic machine records have more of proceedings, transactions and Councilors debate than the all too brief Council minutes at http://cityofboston.gov/citycouncil

    Reply
  3. thezak says:

    The Boston City Hall culture is one of deflecting enquiries that relate to public records and sunshine open meetings. The City Clerks Office, City Clerk, Assistant City Clerk, the hundred or so Boston City Council staff, Council Central Staff, Council Staff Director, the City Messenger and City Stenographer routinely deflect.

    The Council Staff Director emotionally extorts by threatening to remove your email address from Council communications email lists if enquiry for public records continue. The City Clerks Office censors Council minutes to an all too brief arcane format that makes it too difficult to interpret the proceedings, transactions and Councilors’ debate.

    The City Stenographer uses out of date software and keeps the stenographic machine record at home not at City Hall.

    More up to date scopistry professionals use stenographic software that has features like closed captioning for Council webcasts that would make public meetings accessible for folks with hearing loss. More up to date scopistry professionals stenographic software would cost less than what the City Budget alots for the City Stenographer.

    The City Stenographer has been grandfathered in for too long without effectively reaching out to competing stenographic and scopist professionals that do it better, cost less and are ethical about public records.

    A new City Clerk and Council Staff Director are needed more up to date about technological advances, more up to date about municipal software.

    What does the City Messenger really do?… other than deflect access to the City Departments Annual Reports kept on shelves at Boston City Council. A knowledgeable journalist, an effective reporter would look into the ethics of the people in these roles of our municipal government.

    Reply

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