North Carolina’s governor has violated the state’s public records law by methodically deleting official government e-mails, according to a lawsuit filed by 10 media organizations on Monday.
The organizations, which include The News & Observer [Raleigh] and the North Carolina Press Association, say the policy that Gov. Mike Easley’s administration has set up routinely deletes public e-mails, which it deems don’t have value anymore.
“It gives a lot of latitude to individuals and there’s no oversight in what’s being killed and what’s being saved,” said Beth Grace, executive director of the press association. “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, and it’s up to the public to make that decision, not individual employees of a government entity.”
The lawsuit, which was filed in Wake County Superior Court, asks a judge to demand that the governor to comply with the law from now on.
Easley set up a commission at the end of March to review the law as it applies to e-mails in response to the media organizations’ criticisms. Grace said she worries this commission, which is made up of governor-appointed members, will seek to change the law. The government simply needs to follow the law more closely, she said.
“We’re kind of battling on two fronts,” Grace said. “We’re hoping to work as closely as possible with the state to keep the law as it is and analyze how they follow it.”
The commission, which has its third meeting Friday, will release a report in late May on its findings.