Schwarzenegger orders change in parole file policy

State prison officials, drawing fire for destroying the parole file of a man under scrutiny in the disappearances of two teenage girls, reversed their recordkeeping policy Tuesday on orders from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

John Albert Gardner III was charged last week in the suspected killing of Chelsea King, 17, of Poway and is a person of interest, police say, in the slaying of Amber Dubois, 14, who disappeared on her way to school more than a year ago. Her skeletal remains were found Saturday in northern San Diego County.

A convicted sex offender, Gardner, 30, was discharged from parole in 2008, and his file was purged after a year under departmental policy.

Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego) requested the parole file earlier this month and, he said, received only a one-page summary of Gardner’s interactions with the state correctional system. On Tuesday, Fletcher called for an investigation of state recordkeeping practice by a legislative panel and the inspector general who monitors the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Later Tuesday, the governor told corrections officials that all records relating to paroled sex offenders should be maintained indefinitely.

“It is in the best interest of public safety to retain all information on these individuals and to make as much information as possible available and transparent,” he said in a statement.

Prisons chief Matt Cate said he had directed parole staff to make the policy change immediately.