Local Politics

Media outlets sue Easley over deleted e-mails

Posted April 14, 2008 5:15 p.m. EDT
Updated May 31, 2008 10:19 a.m. EDT

— Several media organizations sued Gov. Mike Easley on Monday, claiming his administration has routinely flouted the state's public records law by deleting official e-mails.

The suit seeks a court order preventing state employees from deleting government e-mails and requiring officials to ensure that people in their departments comply with the state public records law.

The e-mail debate has raged in the weeks since a fired Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman said Easley's administration had an unwritten policy to delete e-mails daily.

Easley and members of his staff have denied the allegation, although handwritten notes from two public information officers support the fired worker's claim. The notes, taken during a May 2007 meeting, indicated the governor's press office told public information officers to delete e-mails.

The governor appointed a committee to review state policies for handling e-mails and text messages, but he said in a recent interview that he trusts state employees to delete only frivolous e-mails, such as invitations and jokes.

The Governor's Office receives about 900,000 e-mails each work day, and maintaining all of them would be expensive and time-consuming, he said.

Media representatives have argued that all e-mails sent to and from government offices are public records and should be maintained for possible future review.