Florida Gov. Rick Scott may prove the fears of critics true as details concerning a recent scandal continue to surface.
The integrity of the Scott administration, which has already been accused of taking too long to provide media outlets with requested public records, has come under fire as speculation increases about missing emails from the Rick Scott transition team’s email account.
The emails were authored after Scott was elected but before he actually took office, and were deleted by the company hosting the email accounts once they stopped getting paid to host them, according to the Miami Herald.
The governor ordered an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Aug. 19, according to the Herald.
The team’s email accounts were hosted by cloud computing firm Rackspace, which claims to copy files nine times in case of deletion, as well as allow users to define retention periods and set up automatic message deletion after specified periods of time, according to their website. If the files were victim of a routine deletion, those in charge of handling contracting with Rackspace would have had to set up such a policy in the first place – leaving little room for claims that they were deleted on accident.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, the transition team knew the emails would be deleted in March, but did not attempt to back up the information. If proven, this act would violate Florida statutes.
Under Florida State Law, government emails and email accounts are a matter of public record. Concealing or destroying evidence is illegal and can be punishable by fines or impeachment from a government position as well as a first-degree misdemeanor charge.
Furthermore, according to chapter 119.01 of the Florida State statutes, an agency may not enter into a contract for the creation or maintenance of a public records database if that contract impairs the ability of the public to inspect or copy the records. This includes records that are online or stored in an electronic record keeping system.
The biggest problem that needs to be addressed is how emails and records are archived for public officials and those who aspire to be elected into public office. The requirements for officials and candidates for office regarding databases should be extended to include registration of accounts associated with public office, as well as require daily backups by an independent third party appointed by the Florida Commission on Ethics.
At the moment, there is no proof that Scott had any knowledge of the email archival policies of Rackspace. Nonetheless, this situation demonstrates the carelessness of the transition staff at best, or a conspiracy to conceal information at worst. The scandal represents a clear need to increase transparency of records and protocols for future Florida political candidates.