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Anaheim city officials order destruction of emails

An empty email inbox.
An empty email inbox.
cowbite/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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Anaheim officials are under fire for apparently ordering employees to destroy emails that might reflect badly on city leaders and developers. City employees were told by email that they’d face disciplinary action if unflattering messages weren’t purged.

The warnings came shortly after the Voice of OC filed a Public Records Act request for communications between Anaheim City Council members and the planning department. One email, sent last month by Planning Department staffer Hanna Jones, ordered employees to purge records deemed “old” or “unnecessary” and threatened “disciplinary action” if they failed to do so.

The latest memo, written by Anaheim Community Preservation Manager Sandra Sagert, ordered workers “not to archive emails for any purpose.” The directives follow a year of political turmoil in Anaheim, during which several high-level officials, including City Manager Thomas Wood, have resigned due to conflict of interest revelations in the city’s Building Division.

First amendment experts have said such moves violate state law because public records, without exception, must be kept for two years and can only be destroyed with authorization from the City Council. After remaining silent for nearly a week, Mayor Tom Tait Thursday issued a statement acknowledging that the order was “a mistake.”

What are officials doing now to deal with the fallout? To what extent are governments required to hold onto public records? What are the penalties for breaking the rules?


And what are the email policies in your workplace?


Terry Franke, General Counsel, Californians Aware, a group committed to open government and a free press

James Righeimer, Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem; Former Chairman, Costa Mesa Planning Commission