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.

Filed Under: email, foia, john kitzhaber, oregon, public records


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  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 12:41pm

    Attention TV scriptwriters

    "Hello, The Good Wife writing staff? I've got this great ripped-from-the-headlines plot... What's that? No dice? Well, then, it goes to The Simpsons..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 1:37pm

    Good timing. Governor Kitzhaber just announced his resignation a moment ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 15 Feb 2015 @ 10:52am

      Re:

      Governor Kitzhaber just announced his resignation a moment ago.

      Yeah, because this "media story" has become a "distraction", but he didn't do anything illegal. Yeah, everyone believes you, ex-governor.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Arthur Moore (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 2:06pm

    Helping

    Was the Governor's assistant really trying to help? This sounds like something that someone who wanted to sabotage their boss by "helping" would do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 7:46pm

      Re: Helping

      Yeah, this definitely sounds like someone covering their own ass by leaving a paper trail. Good for her.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 2:17pm

    Its a start,

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 2:32pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      psiu, 16 Feb 2015 @ 6:13am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 2:35pm

    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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    lars626, 13 Feb 2015 @ 2:41pm

    Creative

    I really like hearing tales of creative bureaucracy.
    Sometimes the best way to protect yourself is to carry out your instructions _exactly_ the way they are given. You can always say 'but I did what you told me to'. It sounds like they have some very astute government employees in Oregon.

    I hope none of this blows back on them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Just Passin' Thru, 13 Feb 2015 @ 3:23pm

    A Mike Rogers makes good

    Finally, a guy with the name Mike Rogers that isn't trying to screw the public.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 13 Feb 2015 @ 3:24pm

    Email? Privacy issues? Statutory compliance?

    The obvious move is to call in a well-known expert on these issues: Jeb Bush.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Pronounce (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 4:20pm

    IRS?

    Possibly Kitzhaber didn't read about the magically appearing IRS emails.

    I work IT and email backups for discovery has been an issue since the '90s. Meaning an IT department who doesn't keep back-ups of email is likely to have their butts handed to them in court.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 4:30pm

    Should have seen it coming

    That's what he gets for hiring an assistant based on looks rather than brains.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Christenson, 13 Feb 2015 @ 7:29pm

    Should have seen it coming

    You sure he didn't hire this assistant for brains, Mr Cool??

    I was also thinking sabotage!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 14 Feb 2015 @ 5:50pm

      Re: Should have seen it coming

      That's what he gets for hiring an assistant based on brains rather than looks!
      :)

      See? Works both ways. Damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 7:53pm

    I can hear the entire state of Oregon facepalm from here.

    How the !@#$ does a numbskull like this make it into the governor's office? Go get drunk Oregon. Try better next time.

    And a one, and a two: "Doh!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    cc young, 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:03pm

    a la romney

    recall that when romney left governorship of Massachusetts he had all computer hard disks destroyed, law be damned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jay (profile), 14 Feb 2015 @ 1:06am

    Governor Kitzhaber has tendered his resignation and he and his fiancée are subject of a federal investigation into influence peddling and tax evasion (her behalf). There could actually be some jail time in this for them, but given the is one of the most left wing state, who knows. I know this Oregonian certainly never voted for him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 14 Feb 2015 @ 8:19am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Jay (profile), 14 Feb 2015 @ 9:36am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 15 Feb 2015 @ 10:55am

      Re:

      There could actually be some jail time in this for them, but given the is one of the most left wing state, who knows.

      What does that have to do with it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2015 @ 2:46am

    Please delete all records of my emails from the email servers. Including this email asking you delete my emails. Thank you!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2015 @ 3:04am

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 14 Feb 2015 @ 5:26am

    Accident?

    C'mon, guys, this was obviously a deliberate move. It's just a shame that the aide had to commit career suicide to pull it off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 14 Feb 2015 @ 12:42pm

    “Guys, hold on processing this request until we receive approval from a higher authority,”

    In other words...WWJD?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting annymously, 15 Feb 2015 @ 12:00am

    If you cannot stand the FOIA, get out of the politics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stephen, 15 Feb 2015 @ 7:58pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 16 Feb 2015 @ 12:42pm

    Something tells me that his fiancé is behind this request. Or maybe it was misinterpreted.

    I say this because he has been in politics a while and should have known this would only make it worse.

    Either that or he is getting senile dementia given his reported statements to his secretary of state and the top members of each party in the state.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mark, 16 Feb 2015 @ 9:39pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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