Amid scandal, NY archivist calls for better record keeping

Albany Bureau

ALBANY — The state’s archivist warned Tuesday that New York may be entering the “digital dark ages” if it doesn’t better account for electronic records being produced at the state Capitol.

The strong message from Archivist Christine Ward came during a hearing by Senate Republicans on accusations that the Spitzer administration had deleted emails and other records pertaining to the so-called Troopergate scandal.

A Spitzer spokesman said all records have been retained.

The Senate Investigations Committee called witnesses to testify on whether emails and other electronic records could be easily destroyed or retrieved. Experts said that in most cases, records could be recovered through forensic technology.

But Ward gave the most compelling testimony, warning that in the electronic age it’s becoming increasing difficult to file documents in the state archives, which are kept in Albany.

For instance, she said advances have made it difficult to even access old technology, such as using old floppy computer discs. Moreover, information is often deleted inadvertently, she said. She called for new laws to better outline how public electronic records should be kept.

“We are faced with the very real possibility that much of our state’s modern history is in danger of being lost,” she said.

Last year, Spitzer aides were accused of compiling travel documents on Senate Republican Majority Leader Joseph Bruno’s use of a state helicopter, claiming he used the aircraft for political purposes.

While state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the Albany County District Attorney’s office found no criminal wrongdoing, Bruno and other critics have blasted the Democratic administration, and Spitzer suspended then-communications director, Darren Dopp, for his role in the scandal.

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