Local Politics

Gov. files motion to dismiss e-mail suit

Posted May 13, 2008 5:01 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Mike Easley filed a motion to dismiss Tuesday the charges brought by several media organizations that his administration is in violation of the state's public records law.

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.

Easley's motion argues that the court does not have jurisdiction to restrict the actions of the administration under the purview of that law. According to the motion, the public records law allows the courts to require that documents be made public, but does not allow for the preventative action the media outlets sought.

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.