APRIL 16, 2008
Nearly a dozen media organizations are suing North Carolina’s Democrat governor and his administration for systematically violating the state’s public records laws by deleting electronic mail as well as handwritten memos from cabinet members.
The lawsuit accuses Governor Mike Easley of the “systematic deletion, destruction or concealment of e-mail messages sent from or received by the governor’s office.” The complaint says Easley specifically instructed his staff and cabinet agency employees to delete the information and that he did it himself.
If in fact the governor did, he violated North Carolina’s public records law which says all government e-mails concerning public business are indeed public record and must be retained and provided to the media or the public upon request. Additionally, the state Department of Cultural Resources, which oversees public records, must preserve the information yet according the lawsuit it allowed workers to destroy it.
Repeatedly thumbing his nose at law and the media outlets that have called him on it, the governor discarded a handwritten note that should have been preserved just last month. The note, from state Health and Human Services Secretary Carmen Hooker, explained why she didn’t speak publicly about mental health reform efforts. Easley discarded it after a local newspaper wrote a series about the failures of the state’s mental health system, which she oversaw.
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