ALBANY - Democratic lawmakers Thursday pushed a bill to end Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's policy of destroying most government emails after 90 days, saying accountability should "have no expiration date."
"With growing numbers of New Yorkers losing faith in our democratic process, it's more important than ever that we shine a bright light on Albany," said Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan). "The people of New York are our bosses, and they must have access to the resources and information they need to hold their elected officials accountable."
The bill would require state emails be held for at least seven years, to match a federal process. The sponsors say that will preserve records in the event of investigations, lawsuits or public records searches under the state Freedom of Information Law.
The bill also would make the Legislature subject to the post-Watergate era open records law known as FOIL. For 40 years, the Legislature has voluntarily abided by the law, which requires most records to be available to the public.
The Cuomo administration has called its 90-day retention policy commonplace in the public and private sector. It requires that state officials and workers act to retain records; otherwise the documents are deleted after 90 days. That saves storage space and reduces costs, Cuomo aides say. The governor also uses a Blackberry communication system when contacting aides by cellphone, which leaves no text.
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said on Twitter a week ago that the governor will review any bills on the topic. Cuomo had no comment Thursday.
Last month, the email bill's co-sponsor, Daniel O'Donnell (D-Manhattan), grilled Cuomo's new chief information officer on the issue during a budget hearing: "I think if the New York Assembly announced tomorrow they were going to pick up this policy, (federal prosecutor) Preet Bharara would be at the court door making sure it did not." Bharara, U.S. attorney for New York's Southern District, is investigating corruption in Albany.
The issue comes at a time when government officials' handling of emails is in the headlines. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of her personal email and a private email server has drawn weeks of criticism and forced her to address the practice at a news conference this week.
The bill also is a challenge to Cuomo in his fight with the Legislature over ethics. Cuomo is trying to use extraordinary powers under the state budget to force more ethics measures on lawmakers, who have so far refused to cooperate or introduce his budget amendments that include his ethics package.