Inspector General Finds 'No Evidence' Officials Used Email to Evade Law

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By Anthony Adragna  

Sept. 30 -- There is no evidence senior Environmental Protection Agency officials used private e-mail addresses to evade federal recordkeeping laws, according to the agency's inspector general.

Senior officials, including former Administrator Lisa Jackson and EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, were aware of federal recordkeeping laws and did not use private, non-governmental email accounts in order to evade those responsibilities, according to the report (No. 13-P-0433) released Sept. 30.

“We found no evidence to support that the EPA used, promoted, or encouraged the use of private email accounts to circumvent records management responsibilities,” the report found.

The report also said: “We found no evidence to support that the EPA reprimanded, counseled or took administrative actions against personnel for using private and alias email accounts.”

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology had asked the EPA's Inspector General to examine the agency's policy toward the use of secondary and private e-mail accounts for conducting official business.

The EPA has concluded it is “not practical” to completely eliminate the use of private e-mail accounts, but has also not provided guidance for how to properly preserve records when such communications occur, the report said.

The report also said the EPA has agreed to develop procedures and guidance for the use of private e-mail accounts, develop internal controls to verify employees receive training on proper records management, and implement an electronic content management tool that will fully capture e-mail records within the agency's system, among other recommendations.

Second Official Accounts

The report confirms the administrator and deputy administrator each had a second government-issued e-mail address for conducting communications within the agency on daily business.

According to the report, the use of secondary government-issued accounts is “widely used within the agency and is not limited to senior EPA officials.” The report did not identify what other EPA officials might use these secondary accounts.

Agency e-mail practices have been under intense scrutiny since the revelation in fall 2012 that then-administrator Lisa Jackson used a secondary account--under the pseudonym Richard Windsor--to conduct official agency business.

Jackson told a House committee Sept. 10 that she “certainly did not intend to circumvent records or transparency laws” while heading the EPA and defended her use of the Richard Windsor account.

Former governmental officials, legal scholars and open government groups have previously told Bloomberg BNA the use of secondary e-mail accounts raises questions about whether the EPA can properly comply with federal recordkeeping requirements.