Menifee City Council approves updated electronic communication policy

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In a light action meeting Wednesday, May 1, the Menifee City Council adopted its rules in the use of electronic communications and amended the councils Park Facilities Naming Policy.

The city’s electronic communications policy, according to the council agenda, is to provide clear and concise direction regarding the use of the city’s electronic communications systems, including electronic mail, text messaging and voicemail; minimize any disruptions to city services related to electronic communications; enhance work productivity through the use of electronic communications and finally to comply with applicable state and federal law and city policies related to the use of email and all other forms of electronic communication.

A key factor in establishing the electronic communications policy is Menifee’s need to comply with a California Supreme Court decision that electronic communications on personal electronic devices of city and employees and officials are subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act if the communications relate to city business and not otherwise exempt.

The new policy would prohibit authorized users, including employees, appointed and elected officials, interns and volunteers, from using personal accounts for the creation, transmission or storage of electronic communications regarding city business.

City Attorney Jeffrey Melching explained to the council the new policy.

“After the Supreme Court decided its case in the San Jose decision about a year and one-half ago, it became clear that if you are using a personal email account or not, for the purpose of confirming a document is a public record, and therefore subject to the Public Records Act. All that matters is if the communication has anything to do with the public business,” Melching said.

He said even if a city employee uses his own personal email, the mention or reference to a city matter becomes a part of the public record and can be accessed by the public. It also includes communications on text messages, Facebook accounts or Twitter messages becomes a public record which anyone can access under the Public Record Act. The city policy requires any mention of city business on any device be relayed to the city electronic communication system.

The policy requiring employees to forward any personal email relating to city business be forwarded to the city servers relies on the honor system of the employee to comply, or the city clerk would have to request a search of the item in the personal email that is requested under the Public Records Act – a long and burdensome process, according to the attorney.

The new policy was adopted by a 4-0 vote with Councilmember Dean Deiness absent.

The council also unanimously approved the new Park Facilities Naming Policy that would require the council in a majority 4-1 vote make a park’s name change that would honor a notable person or event.

City Manager Armando G. Villa in his report at the end of the meeting said the newly appointed police Chief Pat Walsh, former Hemet Police Chief and adviser Dave Brown and the assistant city manager has been in numerous meetings with the Murrieta Police Department to work out a contract for the joint city dispatch system and are preparing a budget to be presented to the council in hiring the needed police department personnel.

Villa said the design for the new council dais has been completed and contracted out with the council possibly moving into their new council chambers in the new city hall by the first meeting in June.

The staff is also awaiting the final assessment of the power poles by Southern California Edison before being turned over to the city under a purchase contract financed through Bank of America.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.