City Staff to Council: Do Nothing on Email Record Retention

Its status quo at City Hall. After months of research, staff are recommending no changes to the City’s email retention policy, meaning staff and politicians will continue to have the ability to delete email records and the City will continue not retaining copies.

It seems nobody at City Hall is aware of the provincial gas plant email scandal. This scandal involves staff in the Premier’s office allegedly deleting email records and no central retention of the deleted emails.

Instead of ensuring this kind of scandal could never happen in Hamilton, City staff are recommending a do-nothing approach to email record retention. This leaves the foxes running the City’s FOI henhouse as well described by Citizen Graham Crawford.

Councillors on the City’s Audit, Finance, and Administration voted to approve the staff recommendations.

However, Senior Management is recommending $25,000 be spent to train staff and Council on their responsibilities to maintain certain types of emails based upon content.

The review was prompted, in part, by Graham Crawford’s publicizing the City’s poor email retention practices.

Crawford noted the City’s process for storing email records, and responding to Freedom of Information, seemed designed to ensure the public either could not get records or the fees charged by the City to search poorly stored emails were such to ensure citizens could not afford to access information.

As Crawford concluded:

In my view, the City of Hamilton’s FOI process isn’t designed to ensure full access to information by its citizens. Nor do I believe it honours the Access by Design objectives and the seven fundamental principles articulated by Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner.

I suggest every single elected official and staff member of the City of Hamilton review Cavoukian’s objectives and principles. I suspect for most, it will be for the first time.

Our FOI process isn’t really a process, but rather a set of unconnected decisions that separately and collectively conspire against the rights of citizens. The FOI office should be leading the charge to fix this process. They are not. Neither are the city manager nor the mayor.

As the City of Hamilton’s new Clerk’s agenda website does not have permanent links to documents, I’ve downloaded the report and posted below: