Questions About App San Francisco City Officials May Use to Send Messages - NBC Bay Area
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Questions About App San Francisco City Officials May Use to Send Messages

A new app allows senders and recipients to not only delete conversations, but make them irretrievable.

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    A new app is allowing elected officials to destroy conversations about public business on their smartphones. Chuck Coppola reports. (Published Thursday, March 17, 2016)

    A new app is allowing elected officials to destroy conversations about public business on their smartphones.

    Questions are now being asked of San Francisco's supervisors who may use the new app called Telegram.

    On Thursday, NBC Bay Area reached to a member of Supervisor Jane Kim's staff and asked if they had used the Telegram app. The staff member did not provide an answer.

    The app allows senders and recipients to not only delete conversations, but make them irretrievable.

    Other supervisors were also unavailable and did not return calls on Thursday. Only Aaron Peskin responded and said he signed up for Telegram last month and had used it once for city business.

    When asked if those messages regarding city business still existed, Peskin said: "Yes, those records still exist to whomever wants them."

    San Francisco's 180-page Good Environment Guide and California Law specify that records of public business be kept. But there is no mention of discussion using an app. The matter is now on the radar of the city's Ethics Commission.

    "Right now, if a politician holds a meeting with Telegram and deletes that, is that a violation of the state Public Records Act? I don't know," said Leeann Pelham, San Francisco Ethics Commission executive director. "We have to look into that and make sure everyone knows what the rules are."

    The city attorney believes the law includes electronic messages and a violation could undo public policies made with them.

    "Let's say a conversation between public officials that should be public is concealed, a court could invalidate that action -- start over," said Matt Dorsey, San Francisco city attorney spokesman.

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