Anaheim mayor calls directive to destroy emails a 'mistake'

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An order calling for the destruction of Anaheim planning department correspondence has created a debate about freedom of information and the legality of deleting state records.

A California Public Records Act request for communications between Anaheim City Council members and the planning department was filed last week by the nonprofit news website Voice of OC. Shortly after, directives were sent to city planning employees calling for a purge of computer files and digital correspondence that might be "unflattering to city leaders and local developers," reports the L.A. Times. Workers were threatened with disciplinary action and told they could be punished for non-compliance.

The city attorney's office said Thursday the request to destroy the email was not illegal and did not violate state law. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, however, said it was a “mistake” for officials to issue the order and called the directive "confusing and misleading."

According to open government groups and First Amendment experts, state law requires cities to retain some records for at least two years, and others indefinitely.