Yesterday, October 28, 2013 I was pleasantly surprised to get a message from Ms. Irma Lopez, the city’s Public Records Coordinator letting me know that the pending records request that has been held up due to the issue of money orders has finally been released to me. As you will remember there has been a disconnect between the city manager’s office and the open records coordinating department on whether money orders were an acceptable form of payment.

According to the public commentary in last week’s city council meeting, Joyce Wilson had stated that money orders were acceptable to the city. However my money orders for open records requests had created an issue and were delaying my open records request.

Yesterday I was notified that the city had received my money order and that the city was sending me CDs “via overnight mail at city expense to expedite” my request.

Therefore I expect I’ll start to review the CDs sometime tomorrow.

In another request that I had submitted and that was promptly released by the city I came across an email exchange between Larry Romero and Joyce Wilson. Romero had asked Joyce Wilson to add a meeting to her calendar with “people from Estrada-Hinojosa” to see if there “any possibilities to use them on our Financial [sic] team”.

What caught my attention about this exchange was that I had specifically asked for emails between the city manager and city representatives for a specific date. The results showed the email from Larry Romero to Joyce Wilson in Joyce Wilson’s email box, but her response to him, which was included in Wilson’s batch did not show up in Romero’s inbox.

Although I suspected that the reason for this was that Larry Romero deletes his emails from his inbox and therefore my request that came in later would not necessarily show in his email box, I nonetheless asked for clarification. Although some us would suspect that city representatives regularly delete mail from their inboxes others would argue that email systems, nowadays have the capability to archive emails even though they may be deleted.

Ms. Lopez clarified what I had already suspected that “users may delete e-mails they do not need”.

At this point there are many questions we should be asking about this. They range from what is the city’s policy on email retention to does it matter that city representatives delete emails. This is something that we most likely will be pondering at a later date.

However I wanted to share with you this in order to document that at this point the city does not archive the city representative’s emails and that they may delete them as they see fit. For now, I’d be curious as to your thoughts on this.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

3 replies on “Quick Update On Open Records Requests”

  1. Martin – congrats! You finally did figure out something that is truly amiss with the open records request production process! What a day this is for you! And me!

    You see, the City of El Paso is not in compliance with state or federal law when it comes to deleted emails. All emails – deleted or not – are subject to ORRs and the city should include them when you ask for “all emails to and from Emma Acosta.”

    As of right now, the city only includes emails in their in-box or in files within outlook. They should be grabbing them off of the server, not the member’s desktop.

    It took you a while, but you finally figured out the game. Your payment debacle was unfortunate, but this is much much worse.

  2. City reps should not be deleting emails and the city needs to keep copies of them for ORRs. I think its a criminal offense not keep copies of emails. You should look further into this.

  3. This type of deviant noncompliance of deleting emails is perpetuated by the advice of the attys. So things are purposely twisted with the attempt to hide information from the public but the servers maintain backups of each and every email. Make a request to the IT Department under FOIA. The attys will fight every bit against such release and when you request it also request to know/id the network from where info is coming.

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