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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tempest in an inbox?

A week to go before the Boston preliminary election and things finally appear to be heating up. And all because of a sidebar story.

The Globe's major piece yesterday on the melding of the constituent and political operations of Mayor Tom Menino was well-reported and important campaign coverage but hardly earth shattering. Politicians always come close to that line.

But tucked away in the story was the revelation that Michael Kineavy, "Menino’s most trusted political adviser and most effective enforcer," routinely deletes his e-mail nightly.

The result: a major Page One Herald story and a more subdued Globe follow-up. Part of that could be the Herald playing catch up. But is it?

As any Statehouse intern should be able to tell you, deleting e-mail is a major league no-no. The state's public records law clearly requires municipal employees to save most electronic correspondence for at least two years, even if the contents are of “no informational or evidential value."

City Attorney Bill Sinnott apparently needs a refresher course because he seems to be unaware of this definition. He also seems to have missed the part where it says ..."Regardless of the intent to delete the message, as long as it exists, it continues to be subject to discovery."

Equally curious is the apparent lack of backup of old e-mail. Now I am no longer a public employee and I may be something of a pack rat, but I have a 1.5 gigabyte e-mail archive (and my tech support people tell me I need to do something about it before the file corrupts itself).

My company has a formal process to backup and save all e-mail for at least two weeks. Sensitive material is surely stored longer. And we are not subject to the public records law.

So something certainly smells rotten on City Hall Plaza when the mayor's chief constituent services guy can only produce 18 e-mails between Oct. 1, 2008, and March 31 for a FOIA request.

Menino fans will certainly note that councilors Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon aren't exactly brimming with the spirit of openness either -- a judge ruling in 2005 that the City Council was guilty of 11 violations of open meeting laws while Flaherty was president, in a suit brought by Challenger No. 3 Kevin McCrea.

Flaherty at least stood up and took his lumps. And aired the dirty linen when he got into the race and not a week before the preliminary.

Kineavy and Sinnott got some 'splainin' to do. And I somehow suspect this will be an issue beyond next week's preliminary when only McCrea and one councilor be be dumped. So no, this is likely far more than a tempest in an inbox.

(Herald graphic)

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Blogger Francesca said...

Sam Yoon first ran for City Council in 2005, and took office in 2006. He had no part -- could not have had a part -- in any of the open meeting law violations over which McCrea sued. McCrea's suit was filed before Yoon even took office.

September 14, 2009 1:18 PM  
Blogger the zak said...

Ask your favorite City Councilor for the stenographic machine record of the last public meeting of Boston City Council. The City Stenographer's stenographic machine records have more of proceedings, transactions and Councilors debate than the all too brief Council minutes at http://cityofboston.gov/citycouncil

September 15, 2009 12:11 AM  

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