MACo Cites Costs and Intrusion From Email Retention Bill

MACo submitted written testimony in opposition of HB 492, Public Bodies – Use and Retention of E-Mail – Requirements, to the Health and Governmental Operations Committee on February 24, 2016.

HB 492 prohibits an employee of a public body from using a personal e-mail account to create or maintain government email and to forward any government email received on a personal account to an official government account. The bill also requires a record custodian to retain email at least 7 years or in the case of a “senior employee” (as defined by the State Archivist) permanently.

From the MACo testimony,

MACo believes counties can and should have e-mail retention policies that comply with current law. Current policies balance the need for transparency and openness, public accessibility, and retention for liability protection against the cost and challenges of storing vast amounts of email in perpetuity.

HB 492 would disrupt a system that has generally managed to balance these valid but sometimes competing concerns.

As the bill’s fiscal note indicates, HB 492 would significantly increase costs for both the State and local governments to invest and maintain in new hardware, software, and information technology infrastructure.

Furthermore, because of cost and reliability, the long term archival storage medium for many local jurisdictions remain tape drives, which are not easily searchable or accessible. Significantly increasing the use of tape drives could ironically increase the time and costs associated with email PIA requests.

HB 492 is a well-intentioned bill but its implementation would disrupt existing, workable policies and replace them with a more costly and ultimately less public-friendly system.

An identical cross-filed bill, SB 155, was heard on February 3 in the Senate and given an unfavorable report by the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.


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