Some Mono County public records will be tossed to save space
According to Mono County Counsel Stacey Simon, public documents have a way of piling up in municipal buildings.
Currently, boxes full of public documents, copies of emails and other paperwork fill rooms from floor to ceiling at the defunct Mono County Hospital in Bridgeport. Simon told Mono County Supervisors on Tuesday December 12 that there are boxes containing files and paperwork from nearly every County department at the facility. She said both she and her predecessor, Marshal Rudolph, were unaware of the existence of the boxes, some of which date back to 1996.
The hospital will be torn down soon to make way for a new Mono County Jail, so the County will either need to find a new home for the records, or dispose of them. The County is going “clean up our act and get our house in order,” said Simon, by asking department heads to get their boxes out of the hospital and introducing a new records retention policy.
Under the new policy, records that are not deemed to be “official records” will be deleted or shredded in 90 days. Examples of unofficial documents include party notices and email threads. Official records include direct emails, text messages and electronic or paper communications. Simon explained that 90 days is the standard amount of time most other agencies in the state keep public records for.
The policy defines a record as official if, “(1) The document was made for the purpose of disseminating information to the public; (2) the document was made and kept for the purpose of memorializing an official public transaction; (3) the document is required by law to be kept; or (4) the document is necessary and convenient to the discharge of a County officer’s official duties and was made or retained for the purpose of preserving its informational content.”
Documents and emails pertaining to potential litigation will be saved regardless of their age. Mono County Sheriff and District Attorney’s Offices have separate retention and deletion policies. Under the new policy, it will be up to the employee to determine what is and is not an official record. Simon and Nate Greenberg, Mono County Director of Information Technology, said there will be training for employees on how to determine what an official record is.
Former County Administrator Jim Leddy allegedly used his personal phone to sexually harass a subordinate from 2013 to 2015. Those messages were deleted before an investigation began. Harassment done electronically on personal devices between County employees is not addressed in the policy.
District Five Supervisor Stacy Corless expressed her concern for records of misconduct by County employees in an email to The Sheet. “What’s most important to me is that all employees know that they are protected if they experience harassment. Part of the training ought to include how to report such an experience, as well as how to safely save such messages,” said Corless.
Supervisor Bob Gardner said that, as Vice President of Finance and Administration at California State University San Bernardino, he saw staff spend a lot of time and money mining for information to fulfill records requests. He said that County staff has limited resources and that their time could be better spent elsewhere than raking through files and reams of paper.
He said he believes crafting this policy is the best use of the resources the county has available to address the problem. Simon said in the email that unreimbursed staff time for records requests can run into the thousands of dollars per request if large.
Gardner said in an email to The Sheet, “This is a trade-off between cleaning up our records and providing transparency. I think the 90-day approach is a good standard at this point.”