The email accounts of Rick Scott and most of the governor-elect’s transition team were deleted soon after he took office, potentially erasing public records that state law requires be kept.
Scott’s team acknowledged for the first time this week that the private company providing email service deleted the records as early as mid-January, about the time the Herald/Times first sought transition emails.
Unable to gather records from the server, as is typical to comply with public records requests, Scott officials attempted to recover the governor-elect’s emails from personal accounts of his top-level staff.
But 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 and Enu Mainigi, a Washington lawyer who served as transition leader, should have done a better job preserving the electronic database. Kise said Thursday he has recommended Scott’s administration approve retention guidelines for future transitions to avoid a similar situation.
“As with most things, in hindsight it is relatively easy for me to see the mistake and to understand how to avoid same in the future,” Kise wrote in an email. “But that is true of all mistakes.”
Those mistakes may have violated state law, public records experts said.
“If they closed that account and destroyed those records, they are in violation,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation.
But Kise describes it as an oversight, the result, he said, 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.
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