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Horry County Council must keep all e-mails

Horry County on Thursday started a temporary e-mail retention policy requiring County Council members to keep all e-mails related to county business.

The county previously had no policy related to keeping e-mails and only retained e-mails for 30 days before they were erased from the county's server. The S.C. State Archive recommends that e-mails be treated like paper documents in terms of retention, being kept for an unspecified length of time, depending on the content.

County Chief Information Officer Sheila Butler sent a memo to the council members this week outlining that all e-mails regarding county business to or from a public or private e-mail address must be kept. At a previous meeting, the County Council Administration Committee agreed to have the e-mails be forwarded to council clerk Pat Hartley until a better system could be worked out.

Butler said in her memo that she and other staff members are working on a permanent policy that would include training on content and associated retention requirements and a means to store the information.

The policy change came on the heels of a series of articles published by The Sun News in February after obtaining almost a year's worth of County Council e-mails through a Freedom of Information Act request. The findings included several issues of county business taking place over e-mail and e-mails not being retained in accordance with the state recommendation and the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

Councilman Gary Loftus said Thursday that he would like to see some issues ironed out including training on retention and solid guidelines for content. County Administrator John Weaver said those areas will be covered by Butler's permanent policy recommendation.

The temporary policy is in effect "until further notice," according to the memo.