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Members of the OAG

Edna Wells Handy
Records Retention and Disposition Policy - E-mails
May 15, 2007

As you know, we are in the process of reviewing and

revising our Records Retention and Disposition Policies in the
Attorney Generals Office.
Presently, we are guided by general policies established by
the New York State Archives Office of the Department of
Education, as well as the Attorney Generals 2005 E-mail policy
and Governor Spitzers 2007 policy.
The first thing to keep in mind is that e-mails are a
communication system, not a document management system. Saving
too many e-mails inevitably leads to an overloaded and
unproductive system, and the volume overwhelms the capacity of
our technology.1
The goal, therefore, is to read the e-mail,
save the message or the attached document if you wish, and
eliminate the e-mail message.
This allows you to keep the
document and prevent the communication system from being

One of the most common e-mail problems is poor retention

practices. In many e-mail systems, individual users
maintain thousands of e-mails at any one time. This means
that users are not identifying and deleting the messages
they no longer need, and it probably means that they are
not transferring e-mail records out of their inboxes and
outboxes. Over time, overburdened e-mail systems can
become slow, and retaining unnecessary e-mail may lead to
delays in retrieving important e-mails from a large volume
of messages.

Managing E-mail Effectively, published by New York State Archives (2002),

at p. 6.

excessively burdened.2
Former Attorney General Spitzer attempted to streamline the
system in 2005 by reducing allowable megabytes.3 That method
proved too difficult to implement. As Governor, he is now
modernizing the e-mail communication system by imposing a 90-day
time limit for retention of e-mails.
We are conforming our
policy to match that of the Executive.

Following this simple procedure is consistent with established policy. In

2002, the New York State Archives of the Department of Education issued its
Revision to the General Retention and Disposition Schedule for New York
State Government Records pertaining to e-mails:
Authorization No. 90369 E-Mail Messages Incoming and outgoing email communications, including attachments, used to distribute
information and documents, announce or schedule meetings, and conduct
formal and informal communications
Minimum Retention and Disposition: Destroy after messages
and attachments are opened and substantive materials have been saved
in appropriate electronic or paper file.
Justification: Many e-mail communications are suitable for
immediate destruction. Those messages and attachments which concern
substantive matters should be maintained in appropriate electronic or
paper files and disposed consistent with applicable authorizations for
those files.

Attorney General Spitzers 2005 Report, Email Records Retention and

Disposition Policy, made the following observations:
The escalating volume of messages has already resulted in storage and
maintenance costs which are unsustainable (at p. 2)
The convenience of using any email system as a document management
system does not outweigh the risk of using such a communications
system for long term document storage (at p. 2)
Limiting the amount of storage available to each employee for active
email messages should encourage proper records management
activities (at p. 2)
The Attorney Generals email system is a communication system, and
shall not be used as a document management system, record keeping
system, or records management tool. (at p. 3)

Our new and improved retention practice is as follows:

1- Save emails as demonstrated at
2- Eliminate the e-mail message.
It would be ideal to do this frequently. However, knowing
that we are all very busy, we are establishing a time-table that
is more flexible.
We are re-configuring the system so that the
messages on your desktop will be centrally removed after sixty
days.4 This procedure will automatically send the messages into
the Trash bin on your desktop. If for some reason you need to
retrieve it from the Trash bin, you will have an additional
thirty days in which to do so. After this period of time, the
messages will be centrally removed from Trash.
All told, then, you will have access to your e-mails for 90
days. Please save any substantive messages and important
attachments before then. This will assure a volume that our
present technology can manage.
In the next few days, we will be setting up our centralized
e-mail maintenance system along these lines. Once it is in
place, please be certain to move and save all substantive
messages and attachments prior to the 90-day period.
I will, of course, alert you as to when the system is in
effect. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to
ask. I thank you in advance for your cooperation.

The sent messages will also be removed after sixty days.