KTRK gets restraining order against HCSO

January 19, 2008 4:34:17 PM PST
An attorney representing Harris County avoided our reporters after the Harris County Sheriff's Office is hit with a temporary restraining order. KTRK-TV was granted the order this afternoon to prevent the sheriff's office from deleting any more emails. 13 Undercover filed the motion so you have the legal right to know what is going on inside the sheriff's department.

After just nine days, the sheriff's department's newest policy is on hold.

"The court agreed with our argument," said KTRK attorney John Edwards

Late this afternoon, a judge granted a temporary restraining order against the sheriff's department. 13 Undercover's Wayne Dolcefino had filed it just two hours earlier.

"It must, in fact, continue to maintain its emails, not destroy any of its emails," said Edwards.

KTRK filed the temporary restraining order in response to a new email policy outlined in a January 9 memo. It says all sheriff's department employee emails will be deleted forever after just 14 days.

Sheriff's officials say they needed the server space. Whatever the reason, union President Rick Newby believes to outsiders, the timing seems questionable.

"I'm sure there's a lot of people out there that think they're hiding something, trying to do something inappropriate," he said.

The restraining order is only temporary, in effect until a hearing next week., but county officials say it's buying them time.

From County Judge Ed Emmett tonight: "By the time of the hearing, I want to have an email retention policy that protects not only the county, but also the public's right to know."

Former district clerk and candidate for county Judge Charles Bacarisse told me, "I'm glad the judge granted the TRO. It gives the county time to develop a county-wide policy."

Right now, there is no county-wide email policy. But Emmett says that's now a priority. The next hearing is scheduled for January 25.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal is being investigated by the state attorney general's office after an email controversy of his own. Investigators found several emails on Rosenthal's county computer hard drive, including racist jokes, pornography and romantic emails to his secretary. Several of the emails were deleted. Rosenthal has refused to resign.

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