The following is the Minnesota SPJ pro chapter’s statement on H.F. 1185, a bill related to the definition and retention of public correspondence:
The Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists strongly supports H.F. 1185, a bill introduced at the Legislature that calls for a three-year period of retention of correspondence with regard to government records and more clearly defines the meaning of “correspondence.”
Our member journalists across the state know well the difficulty in making public information requests when different agencies and public bodies have various rules for retaining records and definitions of what constitutes “correspondence” (such as emails or letters). Further defining the time for retention and the nature of correspondence will facilitate a more even-handed enforcement of the law.
H.F. 1185 makes clear that the public has a right to access correspondence that involves government business, but the bill does not unnecessarily require the retention of every insignificant email. The three-year retention period is reasonable given that some court cases involving government entities go on for longer periods of time.
Clues to government development plans that, for example, go awry years down the road may be found in correspondence five or 10 years in the past. Indeed, three years of retention in some cases may not be long enough. However, with no current uniform standard for retention, three years is a good start.
Ben Garvin, Minnesota pro chapter president
Jenna Ross, president-elect
Joe Spear, secretary
For media inquiries, contact Joe Spear at 507-317-8073.