Automatic deletion of Philly emails leads to bureaucratic tangles, city officials say

 (NewsWorks File Photo)

(NewsWorks File Photo)

NewsWorks reported last week that open-government advocates have raised concerns about the city of Philadelphia’s policy of automatically deleting emails after 50 days unless they’re saved by individual workers.

Now, a city official who oversees elections in Philadelphia has said the email rules have caused bureaucratic problems, too.

City Commissioner Stephanie Singer said she has failed to save some important emails in the past, such as ones she’s sent the district attorney’s office about alleged wrongdoing on Election Day. That’s made it difficult for her to follow up with citizens who have made such complaints, she said.

“I can’t think of a single reason for deleting emails after only 50 days other than an attempt to keep the public or lawyers or whoever from getting access to those emails,” she said. “It’s a way that the city protects itself from oversight.”

A spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter did not respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Kates, a top aide in City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez’s office, said on Twitter that Philadelphia’s email policy has caused workflow issues for her as well. 

@wbender99 @hollyotterbein can't tell you how often i followup on unfulfilled requests only to be told 'oh i don't have that email any more'

— jennifer kates (@jenniferkates) October 2, 2014

Philadelphia City Solicitor Shelley Smith has said the government deletes emails older than 50 days because of financial constraints. However, the city of Pittsburgh claims to have saved money after increasing its storage capacity by utilizing a cloud platform.

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