Weâ€™re glad to see the City of Bristol is buying a new information system to store emails issued from and to official accounts. Itâ€™s about time.
The new archival system will help resolve an issue that has plagued not only Bristol, but other local city governments, including New Britainâ€™s. A change in administration - usually when a Democrat succeeds a Republican, or the other way around - seems to encourage a thorough housecleaning of data from the previous office holderâ€™s time in office. These days, a good portion of that documentation is in emails.
The latest round came when new Bristol Mayor Ellen Zappo-Sassuâ€™s administration charged that former Mayor Ken Cockayne left little behind in his office - paper and electronic documents apparently did not survive the transition. These documents, aside from being public property, are often needed to research past activities of the government and provide a historical record of what happened during a piece of the cityâ€™s history.
Management Information Systems Director Scott Smith, who was on the scene three years ago, reported to the Board of Finance that he was told not to buy the system then - apparently by officials including then-Mayor Ken Cockayne. Heâ€™s the one being accused of destroying those city documents before he left office. The cost of the system was the reason given at the time.
It doesnâ€™t look like Bristol is going far enough, though. The new system, weâ€™re told, will only archive emails and not other documents. So weâ€™re solving the supposed Hillary Clinton problem, but not acting on the bigger picture.
A system that archives all documents, within reason - along with policies and procedures to make it effective - would be a good idea. Storage space is not expensive any more, and an organized data library would be a benefit to everyone, now and in the future. After all, just across town, Bristol Hospital set an example when it became one of countryâ€™s leading providers in implementing digital recordkeeping.
It looks like the system that was squelched a couple of years ago would have been a good investment after all. We hope other city and town governments take notice and become leaders in information transparency, and Bristol will move even further in that direction.