The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is under fire for automatically destroying internal emails in the midst of ongoing state and federal investigations, according to this recent story in the Los Angeles Times.

The investigations are centered on alleged misdeeds by former executives and board members, including improper influence over investment decisions and having “strong-armed a medical benefits vendor to retain a former board member as a consultant,” the Times reported.

Emails at CalPERS are being destroyed if they are older than 60 days and don’t fall under the agency’s “administrative, legal or archival requirements,” according to the Times story. The decision to save particular emails is left up to the employees.

From the Times story:

CalPERS said its retention policy was aimed at “removing obsolete and/or extraneous records” from its email system. It is similar to a decade-old practice that the fund appears to have largely ignored and, for a time, not used.

Brad Pacheco, the fund’s spokesman, said the reason for the policy was “a system capacity issue.” Computers simply were jammed with old emails.

But Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware in Sacramento, questioned why the policy was activated “in the midst of several investigations that would be otherwise combing through emails.”

The fund’s own internal review released two months ago cited emails going back at least seven years as evidence of misdeeds among CalPERS executives.

A Voice of OC story late last year revealed that cities in Orange County had a range of email retention policies, nearly all of which fell short of satisfying the California Public Records Act, according to the First Amendment advocacy group Californians Aware.

After the story was published, CalAware vowed to fight the email policies. Pressure from the group led the Irvine to begin efforts at reforming its email policy, which, similar to the CalPERS policy, calls for automatic destruction of emails in 30 days and leaves decisions to save more important emails in the hands of city employees.


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