Irvine, Huntington Beach to Receive Legal Threats Over Email Deletions

An attorney with the First Amendment advocacy group Californians Aware will send letters to the cities of Huntington Beach and Irvine demanding an end to ongoing email destruction, a practice the group says is a violation of state laws governing local agencies’ records retention and disclosure.

As I reported last week, many cities across Orange County have been routinely destroying emails, arguing that they are “transitory communications” and aren’t records that need to be kept under the California public records laws. Attorneys with CalAware say that nothing in the laws allow for regular destruction of most city emails.

The attorney, Kelly Aviles, said the letters are going to be similar to a letter sent to the city of Lake Forest, which was considering moving to a policy of destroying some emails every 90 days. The letter threatened a court order to stop the destruction of city records.

Since receipt of the letter, Lake Forest has been working with the group to come up with a policy that protects emails considered public records, which CalAware attorneys say include almost any email about city business.

“I think it’s really important that we go to these agencies and explain our position,” Aviles said. “The reaction we want is to see them concerned about public records and the public’s right.”

Aviles expects to send the letters soon. We’ll let you know how the cities react.