Judge tells Sacramento to save emails

A Sacramento Superior Court judge approved a temporary restraining order Tuesday that stops Sacramento from deleting emails from the city’s server.

The watchdog group Eye on Sacramento asked a Sacramento Superior Court judge to stop the city’s planned deletion of communications 2 years old or older that city officials have referred to as “transitory” and said are “irrelevant” to the public record – communications that date back to the 1990s, say city officials, and could number in the millions.

Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang, saying “no real harm was going to befall the city” if she granted the order, said her ruling gives more time for the city and plaintiffs to work out an agreement to provide the records. A hearing on the restraining order is set for July 24 before Chang.

Separate public records requests filed June 25 by Sacramento residents Katy Grimes and Richard Stevenson were at the center of the issue.

Grimes, a correspondent for the conservative Flash Report website and president of the Sacramento Taxpayers Association, asked for city-stored emails from Jan. 1, 2008, to present. Rick Stevenson, a member of watchdog group Eye on Sacramento, requested emails that were set to be deleted July 1.

Attorneys for the city argued the public records requests were too broad and that they were frustrated in their attempts to narrow the plaintiffs’ requests. They said the work hours needed to navigate the requests would force the city to break additional deadlines at a cost of thousands of dollars. Sacramento City Attorney Jim Sanchez, outside the courtroom, called the requests “unreasonable.”

But plaintiff’s attorney Paul Boylan argued that does not trump the public’s “fundamental right to access those records” in calling for the restraining order.

“The city has a significant and heavy burden of proving that they have the obligation to destroy records. The burden of proof is so great that the plaintiffs will prevail,” Boylan told Chang. “They’ve given you no good reason why the button has to be pushed tomorrow.”

Editor’s note (July 8): This post has been corrected to state that a Public Records Act request central to the temporary restraining order was filed by Katy Grimes as a Sacramento resident, not on behalf of the Sacramento Taxpayers Association. Grimes is president of the taxpayers’ group but did not file the PRA request in that capacity.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith