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City releases log of council’s emails

Scott Franz
Steamboat Springs City Council members applaud during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Yampa Street improvement project.
Scott Franz

— The city of Steamboat Springs has released a log of the hundreds of emails city council members have sent to each other about city business on their personal email accounts.

The 85-page log, which does not include the content of the emails, gives an initial glimpse at the topics council members talk to each other about online.

Some topics that appear on multiple email accounts include communications about potential police station locations, a discussion about the potential conflicts of interest that ultimately prevented a council member from voting on a marijuana business’s controversial proposal to move into a new location in Curve Plaza and Howelsen Hill negotiations.

Steamboat Today is currently reviewing the log to determine which emails to seek.

View the log at the end of the story, and let us know if any communications interest you by emailing reporter Scott Franz at sfranz@steamboattoday.com.

Council members turned over the records to the city following a records request from Steamboat Today seeking communications council members have sent to each other regarding city business on their personal accounts.

The council members reacted to the request with a mix of surprise, anger, understanding and some technical ignorance.

Councilwoman Kathi Meyer did not produce any emails, saying she regularly deletes emails on her personal email account. She added she was not aware of the city’s retention policies regarding city email communications.

City Attorney Dan Foote presented the log as an alternative to Steamboat Today spending as much as $900 to have city staff spend an estimated 20 to 30 hours reviewing all of the communications for any privileged information.

Foote also made a previous records request less expensive and time consuming earlier this year by making a log of several months worth of Public Works Director Chuck Anderson’s emails available for public review.

Those communications gave the public a first glimpse at some of the operational issues at the city’s municipal airport, and the challenges that led to the city not securing critical construction easements prior to the scheduled start of the Central Park Drive project.

In the wake of the records request for the city council’s city-related emails on their personal accounts, some council members have suggested they should only be using their official city email accounts.

The contents of those accounts are automatically archived and preserved on city servers as potential public records.

The use of personal email accounts to conduct city business has been met with concern by government transparency advocates who note officials can simply delete the contents of those personal accounts and potentially avoid records requests.

Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks said Thursday the district discourages the use of personal email accounts by school board members.

“I’m not aware of board members using their personal emails to talk about school issues, all five of them,” Meeks said.

City Councilman Scott Ford said Tuesday the city should look into technologies that could make it easier for the public to search and review the council’s email communications.

“There’s got to be an easier way to do this,” he said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10


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