Electronic mail is a public record and must be available for inspection and copying unless an exception to disclosure in the Access to Public Records Act (“APRA”) applies.

Whether e-mail messages of a personal nature are public records can be a difficult, fact-intensive question for the courts. The public access counselor generalized: “considering the APRA’s broad definition of ‘public record,’ an e-mail that is sent, received, or stored on the public agency’s computer server may well be ‘maintained or retained’ by the public agency that provides the server, even if the message of a personal nature is ‘created’ by an individual public employee rather than the public agency.” (Feb. 1, 2006 Informal Opinion: Guidance Regarding Whether Personal Electronic Mail is a Public Record; see also Feb. 1 2006 Informal Opinion: Alleged Violation (finding that personal e-mail is able to be disclosed)).

The retention of electronic messages is governed by Indiana Code 5-15; electronic messages should be retained in the same manner as paper documents. Whether e-mail is to be retained depends on the content of the e-mail. (See April 4, 2007 Opinion, 07-FC-58.) Not all e-mail messages need be retained or transferred to the state archives; for example, personal or spam e-mail is not subject to retention and may be deleted.