- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Following weeks of delay and continued criticism of his administration’s handling of emails, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday set a date for a meeting with other top officials to discuss a new email retention policy.

Now he just needs somebody to show up.

The meeting was first proposed by Cuomo in March after good-government groups and some lawmakers criticized his administration’s practice of automatically deleting most emails after 90 days.

Cuomo’s call for a meeting may have blunted the criticism, but the meeting itself never occurred.

On Friday, Cuomo’s chief counsel wrote to legislative leaders, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to suggest a May 22 meeting. The letter was sent a day after the Associated Press reported that the push to reform the email policy appeared to have sputtered out.

The May 22 gathering could be a small one.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, indicated Friday that he may skip the meeting. Heastie’s spokesman, Michael Whyland, noted the Assembly already retains its emails and Cuomo doesn’t need legislative authorization to modify his administration’s email handling.

“There is no need for a summit,” Whyland wrote in a statement to the Associated Press. “The governor is free to modify his retention policy.”

A spokesman for Senate Leader Dean Skelos, R-Long Island, was more succinct: “We will not be attending.”

Government accountability groups have long protested Cuomo’s email policy, saying it could potentially deprive the public of important documents.

“I’m hoping the attention this has gotten - and the fact that they are going to meet after all - will result in a policy that serves the public better,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause-NY.

At least two bills have been introduced in the Legislature that would require the administration to retain emails for a certain period of time. One bill, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz of the Bronx, would adopt the federal government’s new policy of preserving emails for at least seven years.

“I think it’s a straightforward approach,” Dinowitz said of his bill. “This is a real issue, and there has to be some clarity on it.”

Cuomo’s current retention policy dates back to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s administration, but the current governor recently expanded it to cover most other state agencies. Cuomo instituted a similar purge policy in 2007 when he was attorney general. Current Attorney General Eric Schneiderman suspended the practice this year.

The comptroller’s office has a separate system with no automatic deletions where individuals can retain emails indefinitely.

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