LOCKPORT – The “delete” button will no longer protect Niagara County bureaucrats from possible email embarrassment.
The County Legislature is to vote Tuesday on a new email policy, which calls for all county emails, incoming and outgoing, to be kept for six years.
Information Technology Director Larry L. Helwig told the Administration Committee last week that new software is in place that automatically saves all emails. He said emails are subject to the same six-year hold requirement that applies to most paper documents under state records management regulations.
Any emails on subjects that are required for a longer hold than six years will have to be printed and kept, Helwig added. Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, said the purpose of the policy is to comply with discovery requirements for potential lawsuits.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Jennifer R. Pitarresi, risk and insurance director. That’s because emails that might help the county defend itself from lawsuits also might hurt its case, depending on the content.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Updegrove said.
Also on Tuesday’s agenda is a resolution demanding relief from the State Comptroller’s Office from annual big increases in public employee pension fund contributions.
Updegrove said that in 2001, the county had about 1,800 employees and was paying about $1.2 million a year, or 2 percent of its payroll, to the state pension fund. This year, it has 1,385 employees and is paying $14.1 million, or 22 percent of wages, to the pension fund.
The Legislature is trying to get a representative from the Comptroller’s Office to come to a meeting to explain the state’s plan for pension relief. Chairman William L. Ross said his target date for that to occur is the April 16 meeting.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is proposing to let local governments pay less to the pension fund now, locking in a stable rate for 25 years. But as they keep paying at that rate, the state assumes costs will fall below the stable rate as more workers are hired under the new, less-generous Tier VI pension plan.
Updegrove said in a presentation at the New York State Association of Counties meeting in late January that state budget officials told county leaders that they were assuming the pension fund’s investment proceeds would rise 7.5 percent a year.
“That figure might be hard to gain when they’re running about 6.25 percent at the present time,” Ross said.
If the state doesn’t meet its investment target, Updegrove said, localities “are going to have to make up that difference. It’s a huge concern.”