(Host) Emails from some top officials in the Douglas Administration were apparently deleted shortly after his administration left office. The practice came to light after the state employees union sought internal emails from officials in the Agency of Natural Resources.
VPR’s John Dillon has more.
(Dillon) The union won a lawsuit that gave it the right to examine records relating to the firing of a state employee. But when union staff went to look at the documents, they learned the records were missing.
Abigail Winters is a lawyer for the employees union. She says, at first, union members thought there must be a back up somewhere.
(Winters) "And we gave them some more time to see if they could locate a back up. And if finally came out there was no back up, or there was a back up but it was deleted as well."
(Dillon) Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz found out about the deletions soon after the Shumlin Administration took office last January.
(Markowitz) "We let somebody go and we discovered at that time that the practice in the agency was to delete their mailbox after they left. After having been secretary of state I could see lots of problems there and I immediately put an end to it. And I told them to stop, that there are important records in those emails."
(Dillon) Jim Condos succeeded Markowitz as secretary of state. His office oversees public records and the state archives. Condos points out that a 2009 document on state records management says emails should not be destroyed until they are reviewed for their significance.
(Condos) "That practice already exists. And I think what may have happened here appears to be contrary to that official practice."
(Dillon) Wayne LaRoche was Fish and Wildlife Commissioner under Governor Douglas. His electronic correspondence was among those requested by the union. LaRoche says he did not order the emails deleted. Instead, he thinks the records were erased after he left office.
(LaRoche)"They were all there and they were all available. And of course me personally I have one policy when it comes to email. Never put anything in an email that you’d be embarrassed to have on the front page of the newspaper."
(Dillon) The state employees union says it wants to work with the Shumlin Administration to prevent records from being purged in the future.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.