Politician Facing Investigation Tries To Destroy His Emails; Assistant 'Helps Out' By Emailing Order To Other Staffers

from the HOW-TO-FUCK-UP-101 dept

There are multiple ways to handle a super-sensitive situation like this one. The following is none of them. [via CJ Ciaramella]

Far too many politicians and legislators aren’t happy with the fact that their emails are subject to public records requests. Some attempt to dodge this layer of accountability by using personal email accounts to handle official business. Oregon governor John Kitzhaber is one such politician.

Unfortunately for Kitzhaber and many others just like him, public records laws anticipate this endaround. In many states, personal email accounts are also FOIA-able if the emails discuss official (read: public) business. Kitzhaber, however, believed he could outsmart outbludgeon the system.

Gov. John Kitzhaber’s office last week requested state officials destroy thousands of records in the governor’s personal email accounts, according to records obtained by WWand 101.9 KINK/FM News 101 KXL.

Rumors of possible influence peddling led to this public records request. Kitzhaber’s last-minute attempt to set fire to his email legacy doesn’t exactly plant a halo over his head, seeing as it came one day before the Oregon DOJ opened up an investigation into these allegations. But he might have gotten away with it if only his own executive assistant hadn’t completely sabotaged the coverup.

Records show the request to destroy Kitzhaber’s emails came from Jan Murdock, Kitzhaber’s executive assistant. She wanted all emails from Kitzhaber’s personal email accounts removed from state servers.

Let that sink in for a moment.

There has been no word as to whether Kitzhaber required emergency surgery to remove his face from his palm after his assistant informed him that she had EMAILED orders to delete his EMAILS to EMAIL accounts that were subject to open records requests.

But then again, maybe Kitzhaber would have been out of luck anyway. Restoring a bit of faith in the system were the responses from staffers to this unusual request.

The prospect of deleting thousands of emails clearly made Osburn’s supervisor, Arian Turpin, uncomfortable.

“Guys, hold on processing this request until we receive approval from a higher authority,” Turpin wrote in a Feb. 5, 2015 email at 6:52 pm. “Given the unusual nature of the request, I’m reluctant to have my team move forward without the active awareness and consideration of the possibilities and a direct approval from higher levels of the action.”

Turpin kicked this up to the next level, and the next level (Turpin’s supervisor, Shawn Wagoner) was similarly hesitant to be Kitzhaber’s accomplice. He ordered those involved to “take no action at this time” while he kicked it up yet another level to his boss (Gary Krieger) — who also felt there was something inherently wrong with vanishing the Governor’s emails.

Krieger told his supervisor, Michael Rogers, that he would not destroy the emails.

“I am not willing to make the call to delete information out of the email archive,” Krieger wrote on Feb. 5 at 7:24 pm. “As I stated we will need to discuss.”

The lesson here is: if you want to run a successful coverup, you need to make sure you’ve got more than one person on board with your plan. And you need to make sure that one person won’t cheerfully pitch in with “help” that only hurts.

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Comments on “Politician Facing Investigation Tries To Destroy His Emails; Assistant 'Helps Out' By Emailing Order To Other Staffers”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Or maybe it was sabotage

I would think an assistant who is going to know a lot of what the person had been doing is more likely to get some revenge by doing exactly what she did. If my boss had been doing awful stuff and I knew I was the one person who could make it possible to either keep him free or fry his rear, I would do just what this assistant did.

psiu says:

Re: Or maybe it was sabotage

Most high level administrative assistants are sharp as hell — not likely to be a ‘mistake’. So unless he was dumb enough (which certainly sounds plausible enough at this point) to put a hot number with no qualifications in the job (rather than just having a mistress), it was likely intentional.

Well played, assistant, well played.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t understand why more politicians aren’t like Texas governor Rick “No Paper Trail” Perry, famous for ordering all staff emails deleted within 7 days, as well as insisting on conducting all important business face-to-face, and forbidding staff from sending interoffice mail saying much more than “Let’s talk.”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You know, that always annoys me, how often a public figure can completely dodge an investigation or charges simply by resigning, as though it’s punishment enough.

“Well, we were investigating him for embezzlement, fraud, and driving a schoolbus filled with children into the side of a Dairy Queen, but he stepped down from his position, so I guess bringing charges on top of that would just be cruel.”

Good to hear that at least this time that tactic doesn’t seem to be working.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

They are not dodging anything, the subpoena’s have been served, the Federal Investigation has been opened (it has been going on since October 2014, This is something that we are watching happen in real time. The picture of Cylvia Hayes crying is because she knows she could very well be spending some serious time in Prison over this. Kitzhaber probably thought he would avoid prosecution by resigning, I do believe he was taken aback when after he announced his resignation both the federal authorities and the state authorities are proceeding with charges.

Having met Kitzhaber during his first term back in 2000 he impressed me as a very slimy person. I did not vote for him back then either.

Anonymous Coward says:

and then an investigation needs to be carried out, just on the emails, if on nothing else. if there is, as is probable, any sort of collusion between Kitzhaber and ‘outsider companies/persons’ and influence peddling, he should be removed from office and prosecuted! the USA has the greatest proportion of corrupt politicians than any other supposed democratic country! do something about it and perhaps things will get done that need to be done!
and as for the ‘influence peddling’, there should be a serious and extensive investigation into who from government influenced the DoJ to go down the ‘hang Dotcom’ route, and who influenced the DoJ to go after other internet companies just on the say-so of the Entertainment Industries!

Stephen says:

Lessons Learned

The lesson here is: if you want to run a successful coverup, you need to make sure you’ve got more than one person on board with your plan.

Wrong! The lesson to be learned is that all you need to destroy your emails is one accomplice onboard. The problem is that it needs to be the RIGHT accomplice. Had any one of that chain of techs been the accomplice thern those emails would now be history. Other people might well have found out later, juxt as others found out about the CIA wiping those incriminating torture videos, but by then it would be too late.

Mark (profile) says:

This guy is my governor. You vastly underestimate him. His corruption goes far beyond what is being reported. His mistakes are the stuff of legend.
He was said that Oregon was ungovernable but that didn’t stop him from running for election again.
he is the prince of darkness

This guy is well beyond your ordinary “*#*!# up elected official” He is their king.

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