E-Mail Retention System Under Fire in Lawsuit Against Mo. Governor

October 13, 2008

Missourians may never know whether employees of Gov. Matt Blunt, or in any other state office, wrongly deleted government e-mails.

Depositions in a lawsuit against Blunt reveal that the state’s backup e-mail system in place until recently took only a once-a-day snapshot of e-mails on state computer servers. That means state employees could delete e-mails with no record of ever sending or receiving them.

The depositions also reveal more details about a suggestion from top legal counsels in Blunt’s administration that the backup e-mail tapes should be taped over, even though Sunshine Law requests were pending.

Deputy state computer chief Chris Wilkerson says in a deposition that he refused to destroy the backup tapes, even though he was fearful it could cost him his job. The tapes ultimately were preserved, and Wilkerson was not threatened with firing.

The depositions of Wilkerson and his boss _ state computer chief Dan Ross _ were taken Oct. 6 as part of a lawsuit by a pair of special assistant attorneys general appointed by a state court to look into the e-mail retention and deletion practices in Blunt’s office. The deposition transcripts were released Friday, October 10.

The Associated Press and other media outlets also have joined the lawsuit, seeking access to e-mails from the backup tapes.

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