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Cuomo's staff to defend, discuss email deletion policy

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's policy of deleting most official emails after 90 days will be examined in a public meeting Friday forced by critics of the policy.

Good-government groups and several legislators have said the policy hinders the public's ability to judge its government's actions and a potential roadblock to investigations.

Frequent critic of the Democratic governor, Assmb. Steve McLaughlin (R-Troy), said Cuomo is trying to limit attention to the issue by holding the meeting on the Friday before a holiday weekend.

In a statement McLauglin called it "just more smoke and mirrors from a feeble leader."

Cuomo's executive branch policy deletes emails after 90 days unless they are intentionally retained. Cuomo administration officials have said only routine, unimportant details are deleted to make room in limited electronic storage space. They have said records that would be needed by law enforcement or by the public under the FOIL law would be retained.

Critics said that's a problem because the public, news organizations and investigators might not realize they need the records until they have already been destroyed. They note Cuomo, as a candidate in 2010, promised the most transparent administration in history.

The meeting will include Cuomo's counsel, staff from the attorney general's and comptroller's offices, and a representative from the Assembly's Republican minority. No good-government advocates or critics are listed as participating.

On Friday, Cuomo threw the first punch.

Cuomo said the meeting should include requiring the Legislature to abide by the state Freedom of Information Law, a post-Watergate measure. The Legislature exempts itself from most of the law's provisions that require most government records to be available to the public.

"We are disappointed the Senate and Assembly majorities, both with new leadership, have expressed no willingness to reform long-standing inequities in New York's Freedom of Information laws, or adopt uniform email and document retention policies," said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. "We are hopeful that they reconsider."

They haven't.

Instead, the Manhattan meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. which will be webcast is expected to focus on the email policy.

Cuomo, however, hasn't yet released the agenda.

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