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City Council directs staff to draft email policy

Settlement in lawsuit accepted
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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A new email policy as it relates to open government is slated to be drafted after the direction of the City Council Monday night. In light of a growing number of interactions between council members, constituents and city staff over email, the council decided it would be appropriate for the city to draft a new policy to retain emails longer and ensure all interactions between council members and city staff are conducted on the city server. Mayor Kevin Hanley said staff would consult a variety of sources, including email policies from other cities and recommendations from the attorney general. The new policy will be aimed at giving citizens of Auburn greater access to records of the email interactions of local government officials. ?As far as I know we don?t really have a written policy on this and I think it?s time we ask staff to put together some guidelines so we can discuss a policy,? said Councilmember Mike Holmes. The decision to review the policy comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by Victoria Connolly and the First Amendment Coalition on June 1. The suit asked a judge to rule that the council members conduct a forensic search of all of the computers they have used since January 1, 2010 and turn over records of their personal emails related to city business. The council members said they cooperated in turning overall all pertinent emails, but want to protect emails sent from constituents to their private emails to protect constituents? privacy and first amendment rights. All emails sent on the city server will be a matter of public record, though, according to Councilmember Bridget Powers. Council members had previously used their private emails to conduct city business, but switched to emails on the city. Hanley reported that the coalition and Connolly have accepted a settlement after a special session meeting of the city council last Thursday. ?That settlement agreement will be made public as soon as it is signed,? Hanley said. Connolly attended the council meeting Monday night and provided her input on the email policy. She said she would like to see council members to encourage constituents to call them or arrange a meeting to share their thoughts privately and make emails public. ?It sounds very reasonable the way that you are framing it, but I would encourage you to communicate with them (constituents) that you are under the constraints of the law,? Connolly said. ?I appreciate your efforts toward more transparency in the email policy and look forward to settling this very soon.? Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.