Consumer Watchdog has issued a notice saying that the California Department of Insurance (CDI) has retracted its policy to delete agency email databases – days after the consumer advocate group warned the regulator that it would threaten legal action over the email disposals.
According to the consumer advocacy group, CDI’s email deletion policy was initially proposed shortly after Consumer Watchdog sought records under the Public Records Act regarding a government corruption scandal involving insurers that allegedly contributed to California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara’s 2022 re-election campaign.
The emails in question are subject to Consumer Watchdog’s litigation against Lara, the group explained. The group added that the email records are “essential to ensuring that insurance companies are living up to their promises to consumers.”
Sources within the CDI had tipped off Consumer Watchdog of the email deletion policy, which prompted the group to send Commissioner Lara a letter last Monday, warning that when an agency "is aggressively destroying its emails, it appears to be trying to hide something."
"The timing and manner of the policy's implementation creates the appearance of impropriety and is ripe for abuse. This can only be avoided by immediately suspending the program's implementation. Short of a commitment from you to suspend the program and retain all email communications, Consumer Watchdog will have no choice but to bring this matter to the attention of the court,” Consumer Watchdog said in its letter.
The CDI’s IT committee later terminated the email deletion program on Thursday, on the grounds that it was “not workable.”
Consumer Watchdog also issued a warning to other agencies, asking them to take note of Lara’s reversal of the email deletion and to avoid adopting similar practices. The group also called on the Legislature to adopt new rules that would require state agencies to retain all their records for a minimum of two years – a measure that counties and cities are already required to do, the group pointed out.