Delete Government Electronic Mail in Two Weeks?

Record Keeping in State Government


Most state governments publish record retention schedules to direct their agencies on the storage and destruction of records. Commonly these schedules set rules for e-mail records. The schedules published by the many different states are not uniform. Taken as a whole they embrace many contradictory ideas.

Let's examine one schedule – North Dakota’s General Records Retention Schedule, revised September 8, 2008.

Regarding electronic mail, at 450102 North Dakota directs: "Retain in office until the record status is determined, but no more than 15 days, then delete. If the e-mail message is an official record made or received pursuant to law or in connection with the transaction of official business, the retention period should be covered by an existing record series."

Yikes. That statement could be understood to mandate fast destruction as the norm. The exception to that norm would entail a person making a judgment that an important e-mail is in fact important. If agency were to read this Schedule to require swift erasure of most e-mail, that interpretation would seem dangerous . . . Continue Reading

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