New Mexico government agencies do not have records retention policies

Dangerous oversight or intentionally vague?

The open government rabbit hole is getting pretty deep.

By their own admission, the New Mexico Department of Information Technology (DoIT) does not maintain a records retention policy separate from the “regulations”  provided in the New Mexico Administrative Code (NMAC).

NMAC vaguely addresses broad terms like “transitory” and “non-record” but does not specify any length of time that records ought to be accessible.

As an example, hospitals are legally obligated to maintain specific policies that explicitly identify the relative importance of certain documents, the corresponding periods of time that those documents have to exist, and the process by which the documents are disposed of after the time of the retention period has elapsed. And HIPAA is pretty clear that there are fines associated with improperly retained documents.

Without good policies in place, employees are left without direction and chaos ensues. Well, Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration has cried havoc and let slip the dogs of perplexity.

In an official Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) request to DoIT, I specifically sent a copy of the Document Retention Guidance currently being disseminated by the legal department of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration. I asked if DoIT has their own policy related to document retention. They provided the link to the NMAC section that addresses records management requirements for electronic messaging.

No description available.

When asked specifically for the policy that dictates the retention of records, they responded that “DoIT does not currently have a records retention policy”.

A behavioral pattern is developing. Over a dozen state agencies are using Microsoft Teams and those same agencies employ the executive branch policy of automatic deletion after a peculiarly and exceptionally short retention period, previously reported as 24 hours.

The absence of an official retention policy maintained by DoIT contradicted by the existence of legal guidance that “You may delete any text message that is a routine communication and is not ‘required to control, support or to document the operations of government'” is antithetical to the principles of open government. When in doubt, it seems that New Mexico agencies err on the side of deletion rather than retention.

If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is. But with actions like this, it is becoming increasingly clear that New Mexico government is obfuscating the obvious and trivializing the importance of open and transparent government.