No resolution in dispute over Sacramento city email deletion

Both sides fighting over whether to preserve millions of Sacramento city emails set to be deleted from the city server questioned each other’s motives ahead of a Friday court date.

A Sacramento watchdog group that asked the city to turn over more than 80 million emails city officials have dubbed “transitory” and called “irrelevant” to the public record said Thursday the city’s reluctance begs the question, “What are they hiding?”

At a news conference Thursday in front of the Sacramento Superior Court, Eye on Sacramento accused the city of purposely withholding public information and continuing a pattern of running a closed and secretive government.

Sacramento City Attorney James Sanchez said in an interview that the city has tried, to no avail, to find a compromise. Sacramento whittled the number of emails to a “more reasonable” batch of 15 million messages pertaining to a list of subjects, departments and individuals the group had highlighted. But the group wanted more.

That, Sanchez said, shows the group doesn’t actually care about getting information from the emails – it wants to undermine the city’s authority to delete anything at all.

Two weeks ago, Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang said “no real harm was going to befall the city” if she temporarily put a hold on the planned deletion, allowing the city and plaintiffs time to work out an agreement.

That hasn’t happened.

On Friday, Chang will decide whether to issue a permanent injunction, which would bar the city from deleting communications at least 2 years old until a final resolution has been reached. That could mean a trial or a change in the law, Eye on Sacramento President Craig Powell said.

Marissa Lang: (916) 321-1038; @Marissa_Jae