More emails from Fla. Gov. Rick Scott deleted

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23 September 2011

Gov. Rick Scott's administration has acknowledged emails on the governor's personal iPad were accidentally deleted, a potential violation of state law, an open-government advocacy organization said Friday.

A state information technology employee was trying to put an application on the tablet in May to retrieve and print out the emails to and from the governor's transition team, but the 200 emails were deleted instead.

Attempts to retrieve them have been unsuccessful.

Christopher Kise, who worked for Scott's transition team, pointed out that Scott had nothing to do with it.

"The governor preserved the emails on his iPad," Kise said.

Kise and other attorneys who work for Scott acknowledged the deletion in a meeting with the First Amendment Foundation this week. The Orlando Sentinel first reported the loss of the emails based on a memo it obtained from the media-supported foundation.

The foundation did not release the entire memo to The Associated Press, but its executive director, Barbara Petersen, acknowledged parts of it in an email.

"Deletion of public records prior to the scheduled destruction date is a violation of law, yes," Petersen said. "This was apparently an accident, and efforts were made to recover the mails, so I presume it would be considered an unintentional violation."

The penalty for such a violation is a $500 fine.

Petersen, though, said the emails still might be recovered from other sources, such as recipients of the messages.

"So, it's probably too soon to speculate whether a violation of law has occurred," Petersen said.

Scott stopped using email once he became governor. But while he was running for the office - and during the transition - he could be seen using his iPad to check the messages.

The effort to get the emails off Scott's iPad was part of an ongoing effort to retrieve emails written by Scott and members of his transition team before governor was sworn into office. Transition records are generally understood to be public records.

But the private company handling email for Scott's transition office shut down most of the accounts. Members of the transition team were warned ahead of time that the accounts would be shut down but no one tried to preserve the emails before that happened.

Scott in August ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the deletion of the transition emails and see whether or not they could be retrieved from Rackspace, the Texas company that handled the accounts. FDLE has not finished its work but Kise acknowledged that part of the conversations with the First Amendment Foundation dealt with whether or not the group would go to the court with the state to try to get them back.

The governor's office on Friday, citing the FDLE investigation, refused to discuss the loss of the emails from the iPad

The foundation memo says the technician, Bruce Slager, notified Kise about the loss of the emails and that Kise told him not to touch the iPad after he realized the emails had been erased. Slager also called FDLE but the agency was unable to recover the emails from the device. Two subsequent attempts also failed.

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