The definition of “public records” in the Freedom of Access Act has for some time included electronic messages. The FOAA includes within the definition of “public records” any “mechanical or electronic data compilation from which information can be obtained, directly or after translation into a form susceptible of visual or aural comprehension.” 1 M.R.S.A. § 402(3). Additionally, “any document created or stored on a State Government computer must be made available” under the law. It is well settled in Maine that electronic communications, such as e-mail, are public records.
Records retention schedules, including those for electronic messages, are approved by the State Archivist and the Archives Advisory Board, per the Archives and Records Management Law in Title 5. E-mail messages that qualify as official state records must be categorized according to their content, just like paper records, so they can be deleted or retained to the same extent as paper records. The specific retention period depends on the subject matter of the records.