Local News

Easley Doubts That Notes Prove His Office Ordered E-mails Tossed

Posted April 1, 2008 6:24 p.m. EDT
Updated April 1, 2008 9:42 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Mike Easley said Tuesday he is not convinced that notes scribbled by public information officers within his administration prove that his office ordered public records destroyed.

Speaking after the regular monthly meeting of the Council of State, Easley said that interpretation bothered him.

Easley recently created a panel, in part, to give state employees improved guidance on when to retain or dispose of e-mail. He acted after a fired spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services said state employees were told to delete e-mails they sent to the governor's office.

“We need to look, I believe, at what we need to save,” said Franklin Freeman, a senior adviser to Easley and the panel's chairman.

Freeman said that with nearly 900,000 e-mails coming into the executive branch of state government each day, storing them can be a challenge.

Over the weekend, published notes by two public information officers supported the former employee's claim. The notes indicated the governor's press office told public information officers, during a May 29 meeting, to delete e-mails.

Easley said he asked members of his staff to examine further what the public information officers were told to do. He said he would have a problem if his staff told others to delete records.

If criminal violations are uncovered, he will notify the State Bureau of Investigation, Easley said.

E-mails are public record, and throwing them away without following the guidelines set by the state is a misdemeanor.

According to Easley, the instructions to delete messages identified in the notes weren't followed, or perhaps public information officers were told to print and save e-mails that are public records before deleting them from their computers.