The Norman Transcript


April 15, 2013

Creating more transparency has snags



While the city’s system filters most spam before it ever hits the server, under the current resolution, whatever junk mail gets through and onto the server will be archived along with everything else.

Incoming emails from residents are subject to open records: That archiving includes all correspondence from residents to city council members or city staff.

Knighton said many people may not realize any email a person sends to city staff or members of city council is subject to open record requests by the public. That includes brief emails from family members, complaints from the public and any junk email that makes it through the filtering process.

All of that mail — relevant records and otherwise — adds up over the course of a year and Madden said buying cyber storage space will continue to be a need every few years, unless the city council clarifies its intentions and modifies the resolution.

“How do you define the term ‘record’?” Knighton said. “The server saves everything.”

Solutions include giving the user choices on what should be saved, shortening the time frame that messages are kept to less than a year or buying cyber storage space.

“From the staff perspective, we don’t care which one of those they select,” Knighton said. “We are keeping a bunch of junk, and over time, you will probably see requests for appropriations from staff.”

Right now, if Knighton receives an unsolicited email, he cannot keep it from going into the archive to be stored for a year.

“Although I have the ability to delete what’s on the active server, nobody has the ability to delete anything from the archive,” he said.

Kovach said that is the price of making sure everything that should be saved under the law is saved.

“I was told not long after we passed it that there might need to be some clarification of what our intent was,” Kovach said. “Tulsa is going through something like this, and they are going to shorten the length.”

While the problem is not unique to Norman, Kovach doesn’t like Tulsa’s solution. He thinks a $16,000 investment to purchase storage space that will last five to seven years is not a huge investment to make to protect the public’s interest.

Joy Hampton



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