Garfield County getting new e-mail system |

Garfield County getting new e-mail system

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Garfield County is moving to implement a new e-mail system that should, theoretically, ease the process of public access to official e-mails in pursuit of governmental transparency and openness.

The new system is being installed, in part, in response to the 2007 requests by Lucius B. O’Dell for access to the e-mail accounts of Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt.

O’Dell, a Republican activist from Berthoud formally requested access to five years’ worth of e-mails from Houpt, a Democrat on a board long dominated by Republicans, as well as the e-mails of San Miguel Commissioner Art Goodtimes, a Green Party member, and all three members of the Gunnison County board, who all are Democrats.

O’Dell abandoned his quest after the Garfield County commissioners voted to charge him t least $3,700, deemed the “the actual costs” of producing the roughly 7,500 e-mail messages, some of which had been purged from the county’s system.

In a letter to the editor, O’Dell blamed Houpt and Goodtimes for blocking his attempts by imposing “illegal additional expense” to the county’s compliance, but failed to mention that Houpt’s more conservative fellow board members, John Martin and Larry McCown, also voted to approve the charges.

County attorney Don DeFord said the process of locating and reviewing the e-mails took “a lot of my time … many days” and was sufficiently troublesome that the staff started looking for a system that would make it easier to comply with state laws governing the release of e-mails in the county’s system, at least those that are considered public record.

But the new system is going to cause headaches for at least one member of the Board of County Commissioners, by her own admission.

“I am not a technical person,” said Houpt at the commissioners’ work session on Monday, appealing for assistance in making the transition to the new system, which will require that all users take a more active role in managing their in-boxes.

According to explanations from DeFord and Charles Zelenka, director of the county’s Information Technology department, the system provides ways to catalogue incoming and outgoing e-mail messages, and an archive for those messages to be saved.

“It will also require that each employee move critical and necessary documents to separate files or folders outside of the e-mail system,” stated a memo from Zelenka to the board, to prevent them from being accidentally purged.

All uncatalogued incoming messages will be automatically pulled from a user’s in-box and stored in the archive six months after they are received, and will be permanently purged from the archive one year after that.

The memo indicated that it was possible to extend the archival period beyond one year.

“However, it was the belief of the staff developing this policy that the county, as an entity, is better protected with a shorter retention period,” the memo concluded.

The new system goes into effect on June 1. It does not cover the e-mail system used by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department, which is separate from the main county system and is controlled by different policies.

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