Ask five agencies how they retrieve email in response to Colorado Open Records Act requests and you'll probably get five different answers.
City of Pueblo:
Pueblo's IT director Lori Pinz says via email that CORAs seeking emails are handled by IT workers, who retrieve them directly from the server "so that we ensure the integrity of the items pulled."
"That way," she adds, "everything is attestable in court that the emails are original and have not been altered." After retrieval, the City Attorney's Office reviews them to assure there's no protected information before they're released, she says.
Pinz also says the city keeps emails in perpetuity "or until space runs out" on the server, for which she didn't define a time period. When non-management workers leave the city, their emails are retained for one year, while managers' emails are kept for three years, according to Pueblo's policy.
El Paso County:
Emails are kept for just 30 days, on a rolling basis — meaning if there's a smoking-gun email on the county system from 31 days ago, you're out of luck getting it, unless the sender or recipient saw fit to retain it.
The county's policy leaves decisions to employees to retain and archive email messages "that are pertinent to county business," county spokesman Dave Rose says via email. "It is the employee's responsibility to insure that messages have been stored on either network drives or other media so that they may be retrieved if necessary."
If a CORA request is received, the county will either check the server or simply ask the employees' whose emails are sought to produce them.
"The Commissioners and County Department Heads, in particular, understand and support the need to be transparent and have been helpful in finding emails that may have ... otherwise been missed by search software," Rose says. "In fact, it's been my experience that something 'out of the ordinary' sent to all five commissioners is frequently saved by all five Commissioners and then will be sent to me from all five Commissioners when requested."
State Office of Economic Development and International Trade:
Department spokesperson Holly Shrewsbury says a CORA request for emails triggers a request to the person whose emails are sought, and that person's supervisor. "We rely on individual employees to search their emails for responsive documents," she says. "That search should include any deleted emails in the user's trash can."
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:
"We require staff who may have responsive documents to search for and produce all of their responsive emails," spokesman Mark Salley says by email. "That search should include any and all folders in the Gmail system, including deleted emails that are still maintained within the user's trash can. Our Gmail is set up to automatically delete email that is older than 90 days, unless the recipient of the email has taken the added step to have particular email retained for a longer period of time by applying a 'label' to that email to preserve it."
State Department of Labor and Employment:
When the department receives a CORA seeking employee emails, says spokesman Bill Thoennes, "the request is routed to the Office of Government, Policy and Public Relations and to the Office of Human Resources. The two offices then coordinate to retrieve the records from the employee's email account based on requested criteria — date range, subject, etc. — which are then produced electronically. Neither the individual employee nor the employee's supervisor are involved in the record retrieval."
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