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State: Gov. Scott’s Team Deleted Transition Emails

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Governor Rick Scott

Florida Governor Rick Scott (Source: CBS4)

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TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – Gov. Rick Scott’s administration acknowledged this week that the email accounts of Scott when he was governor-elect and most of his transition team were deleted after he took office, possibly erasing public records illegally.

The St. Petersburg Times-Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau reported Friday that administration officials said the private company providing the email service deleted the records in January.

The Times-Herald had asked for emails from that period, but didn’t get them.

The papers reported that officials in Scott’s office tried to recover the governor-elect’s emails from personal accounts of top-level staff, since they couldn’t find the originals on the server. Without access to the server, it’s impossible to know how many emails from Scott or his staff were lost between Election Day and the inauguration celebration, a two-month stretch when the team made key hiring moves and shaped the new administration’s agenda.

Chris Kise, the Scott transition’s attorney and public records adviser, said he was ultimately responsible for not preserving the electronic database. Kise said Thursday that he has recommended Scott’s administration approve retention guidelines for future transitions to avoid a similar situation.

Kise also described it as an oversight and the result of a chaotic transition run by a largely out-of-state staff still learning Florida law and unfamiliar with the technology that ran the email system.

After Kise learned in April that the electronic records were lost, he sent a letter — more than four months after the transition ended — to transition team members advising they must preserve transition-related records that remained on their personal email accounts.

Kise said he provided the Herald/Times every email he has been able to obtain. “We’ve captured most everything,” he said.

A spokesman for the Department of State, the agency that archives public records, said transition records fall under the same public records laws as the governor’s executive office. The department has transition records for governors dating back to 1971.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald and The News Service of Florida contributed material for this report)

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