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Jeffco board lawyer: emails can be deleted

Jeffco Public Schools should adopt a policy that spells out how long board members should retain emails they send or receive, the board’s lawyer said Thursday night.

That policy could say emails must be kept indefinitely. Or it could allow board members to delete them immediately — leaving no paper trail of district business discussed electronically.

Brad Miller, the Jeffco board’s attorney, reviewed the state’s open record and open meeting laws with the  board Thursday night. Board members requested the training after a Chalkbeat investigation found the elected officials didn’t have a policy regarding how they should manage emails related to district business on their personal email accounts.

Miller at one point suggested that if board members receive emails about the school district to a personal account, they should forward that correspondence to their official district email addresses and respond from that account.

The rationale behind Miller’s recommendation is that the district could keep all emails, and has employees who could search and retrieve those emails when requests to review them came in. This sort of system, Miller suggested, would take the burden off board members to manage and search their private email accounts when record requests are made.

However, the district does not have a policy regarding how it retains email records, as Chalkbeat reported last fall. That means board members can delete any correspondence as they see fit until the board adopts a policy that spells out how long emails must be kept.

Board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman requested Thursday night the district adopt a policy and guidance regarding retention of documents, including email, as required by law.

“I need direction,” Fellman said.

Miller said he’d draft a policy for the board to review.

Board member Julie Williams said she has directed constituents to only email her at her official Jeffco email account.

Board President Ken Witt, who ran on a platform of transparency, said the district should follow the law.

“We should make every effort to minimize the burden while meeting the statutory expectations,” he said.But as Miller pointed out, the law allows for the board to set its own policy — including one that would allow them to immediately delete any email after it has been read.