ST. PAUL, Minn. - Government transparency was one of the big topics at the Minnesota State Capitol Tuesday.
The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information held a joint press conference with other local groups to raise their concerns over government email deletion and other transparency issues.
"It seems like the only way we can discover emails is through a lawsuit and if the emails don't exist, or even if they do exist, and they say they don't have them, how do we know?" St. Paul Strong member Jim Mannillo asks during a press conference at the capitol Tuesday morning.
The concern over public emails came after various policies were revealed showing how some governmental entities have been deleting public emails to free up their servers.
KARE 11 did a news story in December that showed Hennepin County has a policy of deleting emails after 180 days. The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office deletes its emails every 30 days.
Representatives from both entities say this is done to save taxpayer money, because storing these emails costs hundred of thousands of dollars a year.
Transparency advocates however, are concerned vital public information is being deleted before anyone can see it.
That's why the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information is teaming up with state lawmakers to create a bill that will set a minimum for how long governmental entities must save their emails.
The minimum being discussed is currently 180 days, but there is discussion of possibly making that minimum even longer.
MNCOGI and other groups are also working on a few other transparency related issues this session. They're hoping to clarify the definition of public information, as well as define the government entities required to keep and release this information.
Advocates are also looking to change state open meeting laws to prevent governing bodies from meeting in private. The example they used was a recent situation with the Saint Paul School Board, which held "collaborative problem solving" meetings in private.
Transparency advocates say the pubic was not allowed to attend these meetings under current state law and that's something they're hoping to change.
Members of Health Policy Advocates are also concerned about HMO information being kept from the public. Representatives from the group were at the capitol Tuesday promoting their own bill that would make all HMO information public.
Members argue that the public deserves to know how billions of dollars in taxpayer money is being used by HMO's each year.
"Without being able to access those, to find out how the money is being spent, we don't know that patient safety and health is really being withheld, because that information is being kept secret," Health Policy Advocates Co-Founder Diane Peterson says.
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