An investigative report by the Joplin Globe's Andy Ostmeyer, posted earlier this evening, revealed that the City of Joplin no longer has any of former City Manager Mark Rohr's e-mails. The Joplin R-8 School District only has two years' worth of former Superintendent C. J. Huff's e-mails.
City Clerk Barbara Hogelin told the Globe e-mails are deleted 30 days after the employee leaves his or her position. Even without that policy, Rohr's e-mails would have been available. Current City Manager Sam Anselm told the Globe that Rohr printed out his e-mails and then deleted them. Apparently, the printouts went with Rohr when he left.
The school district only retains its records for two years.
From the Globe article:
The Missouri Secretary of State’s office has on its website numerous schedules that specify document retention rules, including email. One of those schedules is for municipalities, another is a general records retention schedule. Both state: “It is the responsibility of local government to effectively maintain and manage these records and to ensure the continued preservation of those records of essential evidence that have enduring and permanent value.”
A record is defined as any document, book, paper, photograph, map, sound recording or other material made or received in connection with the transaction of official business.
“The definition includes those records created, used and maintained in electronic form,” both schedules state.
The schedules do not make any provision for wholesale deletions of emails once an employee leaves a public body but instead indicate the decision about whether or not to keep an email record depends entirely on content.
For example, there are three categories of correspondence by public officials under the Secretary of State’s general records retention schedule, including emails. “General” correspondence pertains to routine matters involving existing policies and procedures and is to be kept for a minimum of one year. “Transitory” correspondence — that which has no documentary or legal value — can be deleted right away. Examples of “transitory” documents include holiday notices, reminders of charitable campaigns, upcoming events and unsolicited vendor solicitations. “Policy” correspondence, including emails that form the basis of policy or set important precedents in the operation of a government body, are to be kept permanently and transferred to microfilm for long-term archiving and preservation.
“This form of correspondence will come exclusively from elected officials, administrators, managers or supervisors,” according to the Secretary of State’s retention schedule.
Stephanie Fleming, spokesperson for Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, said, “The retention schedule is legally binding.”