By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton politicians are looking at how they can keep the hundreds of emails they receive every day on their electronic devises rather than deleting them never to be seen again.
Stoney Creekcouncillor Brad Clark said he believed the city archived the emails councillors generate and receive on a daily basis. But he discovered the city doesn’t save the emails. He found that fact out after corresponding with a group of residents about a local issue.Clarkhad sent them by email planning information. But they somehow misplaced emails he had sent them.
Clark, who introduced a motion at the audit and administration committee’s Aug. 15 committee meeting requesting staff to study the issue, said the lost emails and the information contained in them were later found in the planning department.
“If (the planning staff) did not keep them, my emails would have been lost,” he said. “I thought (the emails) were archived. This is a serious concern.”
Clark pointed out the issue of deleted emails has gotten the provincial Liberal government, and former Premier DaltonMcGuinty into trouble. The former minister of energy’s chief of staff is accused of deleting important emails that discusses the cancellation of the gas plants inMississauga and Oakville.
Clark, who was a former Tory MPP and cabinet minister, said it is important for councillors to retain their emails, especially to protect themselves in potential litigation, and for Freedom of Information requests.
“The privacy commissioner went after McGuinty” for deleting emails, he said. “We are doing the same thing.”
Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner recommended in her review of the Liberal government’s email deletion, the government should review the Archives of Ontario records retention policies and practices. In addition, she urged the government to amend both the Ontario and municipal freedom of information acts to address “institutes’ responsibilities to ensure all key decisions are documented and records securely retained.”
Under the Municipal Act, municipal governments are required to establish retention periods to keep public records, including emails, texts and other electronic information.
Stoney Creek councillor Brenda Johnson said politicians receive hundreds of emails each day, and are always scrambling to free up space on their computers to accept more. She said city staff urges politicians to delete the emails to prevent their electronic boxes from becoming full.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Johnson.
During the Pan Am Stadium debate, Clark said he received about 3,000 emails.
“It was staggering,” he said. “(Staff) keeps saying I have to delete.”
Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson said during last month’s severe storm, she received “hundreds and hundreds” of emails. When the Pan Am Stadium debate occurred, it took her a week to delete all the emails from people about the issue.
“You get trepidation, should I or shouldn’t I delete the emails,” she said.
Clark also introduced a motion requesting city staff look into permanently retaining the live stream recordings of council and committee meetings. Council began live streaming its meetings in the council chambers in 2010 after city hall was renovated. Currently, the city retains the visual recordings for only a short period of time, and then are destroyed.
He said keeping the visual recordings of meetings are important for FOI requests, as well as protecting councillors and their decisions.