WCTV by Mariel Carbone
November 28, 2017
The City of Tallahassee will consider a new public records policy regarding text messages to and from city employees at its December meeting.
In an item outlined in the meeting agenda, the City states, “As text messaging has become more prevalent, the City must develop a uniform system for retaining text messages as it does e-mails.”
The policy calls for all text messages sent or received by a city phone to be archived by the company Smarsh Inc., which currently archives emails for the City. The estimated cost is $98,000, which would cover a onetime start up fee and a fee of $69 per phone, per year. Currently, the City has issued about 940 cell phones to employees across a variety of departments.
Based on the item, the proposed policy would treat text messages to and from City-issued phones to be retained in the same manner as emails are; it would prohibit the use of personal devices for work-related communications; and require “unsolicited” communication sent to a personal account to be forwarded to a City device.
It also reads that disciplinary action should be taken for violations and that employees be reminded of the requirements annually.
If approved by the commission, text messages would begin to be archived January 1, 2018. Any messages archived from work cell phones, regardless of content, would be subject to public disclosure.
The proposed item comes weeks after the City of Tallahassee made a decision to release all documents related to an FBI investigation into downtown development deals. 90,000 documents have been posted online, with an additional 150,000 still on the way.
It also comes following criticism from the First Amendment Foundation, which wrote a letter to the City Attorney after failure to produce public records to the Tallahassee Democrat. Those requests included text messages linking City Manager Rick Fernandez to the acceptance of $2,000 worth of football tickets.
The commission will consider the item on December 6. [READ MORE]