Sunday, September 13, 2009

Records retention in local government, and Boston City Hall

I have a city-hall as my client. Last month I was teaching an awareness class there, and when I mentioned that they should not have any expectation of privacy when using their computers, there was not a single raised eyebrow. Being the employees of a city government, they all knew about public record laws and freedom of information act requests.

This is different from a private enterprise, where there is always someone who will argue that point.

(as an aside, I had to throw away most of my examples of what is "confidential". Individual's salary figures? Not confidential. Next year's budget numbers? Not confidential. Agh).

Looks like the City of Boston's senior management knew all about the "no expectation of privacy" too:
The acknowledgement came after the Globe filed several requests for e-mails sent and received by Menino’s Cabinet chief of policy and planning, Michael J. Kineavy. He is one of Menino’s most powerful and trusted advisers, intimately involved in nearly everything at City Hall, but a search of city computers found just 18 e-mails he had sent or received between Oct. 1, 2008, and March 31 of this year.

The unusually low figure prompted administration officials to question him about what happened to the rest of the e-mails he was presumably sending and receiving during that period. 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 e-mails on a daily basis, in such a way that they are not saved on city backup computers, administration officials said.

There are indications that Kineavy was not the only city employee who may have violated the law. In June, the Globe filed requests for copies of six months’ worth of e-mails sent or received by five other employees, including Transportation Commissioner Thomas Tinlin. City officials said that a search for Tinlin’s e-mails turned up only those he had received, none he had sent.