I had asked, through an open records request, for emails that regarded search terms such as "school voucher" and "charter school" from Sid Miller (Tx House District 59). One reason was that he has shifted his stance and voted (or abstained from voting) both ways in the last 4 years, as well as voting against greater accountability in charter schools in the past (which would seem to be a conflict of interest since his wife heads the Erath Excels charter school in Stephenville). Seems reasonable to me to want to see if what his comments have been in emails that involve the public business. I actually didn't know how long emails would be archived and remembered that Rick Perry (and George Bush before him) routinely flushed emails after a very short time. I thought it would be interesting to veify, since he is a public servant and emails are open records, what his position has been for the past year, since January.
I got back a reply today that the Texas Legislative Council only keeps emails for 30 days. I called them up and spoke, first, to an attorney, who said he believed it was a matter of policy. Then I talked to a person who in TLC's IT department who confirmed that there isn't a law one way or the other, but a policy. In other words, after 30 days the emails for that month are flagged for deletion, with a 3 day grace period in case of accident, and with a rotating backup that covers ONLY the last seven days, thus giving a person about 40 days chance of actually being able to see an email. No backups. No tape backups, no digital backups, those emails are GONE. It sounds like it is up to the person whose email it is IF he or she wants to save a particular email during that time frame, by printing it.
Here's my question. Why should an elected official's email not be open to scrutiny more than 30 days past its time of conception? Suppose that I want to check the record of an elected Texas Lege official-I should be able to request emails concerning the topic of my choice and get an electronic copy (or saved out to PDF) of the emails of that category. An elected official's actions and thoughts with regard to his or her office should be an open book.
And especially where you see flip flops or answers that are verifiable as consistent.
What this means from a practical standpoint is that one must, within every 30 day period, do an open records request for topics that MIGHT be of concern not only now but in the future. Ridiculous!
IF there is no law, as apparently there is not, only a policy, then I think there should BE a law that ALL emails must be digitally archived, which would, of course, make it easy to search. And what legislator could be against this unless he or she had some reason to want to obscure what is being said by a public servant?
If you agree with me, CALL up your Texas legislator, whether house or senate, and tell them so and ask them to create or sign on to a bill that legislates archiving emails.