Cuomo Administration Says It Has Ended Policy of Automatically Deleting Emails After 90 Days

After a public outcry, the Cuomo administration announced Friday it was ending its controversial policy of automatically deleting emails after 90 days, but good-government groups say the new policy doesn’t go nearly far enough. Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

Effective Friday, the Cuomo administration says it has ended its practice of automatically deleting emails after 90 days, a policy it had extended across state agencies. The new policy, though, is somewhat subjective. Officials say emails will now be saved until their administrative value has been served, a determination to be made by individual employees.

"After the value has been served, the email no longer has to be maintained," said Alphonso David, counsel to the governor.

The announcement came Friday at a summit, first promised in March in response to controversy over the email policy. Representatives of state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman attended, and upstate Assemblyman Andy Goodell participated by phone, but the leadership of the state legislature opted out of the event, their absence pointed out more than once by Bill Mulrow, secretary to the governor, who also emphasized that lawmakers are not subject to the Freedom of Information Law, also known as FOIL.

"It seems inexplicable to me that the legislature is not subject to FOIL, and somehow, I don't completely understand why that is," Mulrow said. "I find that simply outrageous and inexplicable."

Then again, scheduling the summit on short notice the Friday before a holiday weekend seemed to guarantee a sparse turnout. And while the administration touted its efforts at transparency, with Murlow saying, "We clearly have to have the best and the highest standards in New York. We should lead by example," critics say Cuomo can do much better.

“What the good-government groups and transparency groups are looking for the governor to lead on is to adopt a policy of saving emails for seven years, which is what the federal government is doing right now, and which is the clear best practice in the United States," said John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany.

The administration says it will introduce legislation that would subject lawmakers to FOIL. Getting them to pass it, of course, is another matter.

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