Anaheim City Attorney Cristina Talley said Tuesday she is “looking into” an email sent by a Planning Department official ordering employees to purge “unnecessary” records or face “disciplinary action.”
“I’m still looking into the matter,” Talley said.
Hannah Jones sent the email, which referred to records that might “damage our credibility.” The email was sent after Voice of OC filed a request under the California Public Records Act for records of communications to and from members of the City Council.
First Amendment experts were alarmed by the email, saying its ambiguous language suggests that employees destroy records that under state law must be retained.
“This memo that I saw is a very sloppy, highly ambiguous, completely confusing document that no employee could follow confidently, and it could be read as authorizing the deletion of things that shouldn’t be deleted,” said Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition.
After learning of the order, the Orange County Employees Association, which represents Anaheim employees, contacted the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. The DA referred the case to Talley’s office.
“The DA’s office has advised us to contact the Anaheim Police Chief and the Anaheim City Attorney to request guidance as to the responsibility of our members, which we plan to do in writing (Wednesday),” wrote Don Drozd, general counsel for the union, in an email to employees.
“In the interim, we strongly recommend that you do not destroy any emails or other documents until the matter is thoroughly reviewed by law enforcement in the City or another agency.”
— ADAM ELMAHREK