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Investigators ask former EPA chief to turn over private emails

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2013

Top congressional Republicans sent a letter Thursday to Lisa P. Jackson asking her to justify an email she sent during her time as chief of the EPA in which she told a lobbyist to contact her using a private, personal email account rather than her government email — a move that appears to contravene open-records laws.

Sen. David Vitter, ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Rep. Darrell E. Issa, chairman of the House oversight committee, said Ms. Jackson must turn over all personal emails that dealt with government business.

In a 2009 email to Alison Taylor, a vice president at Siemens Corporation, Ms. Jackson said: "P.S. Can you use my home email rather than this one when you need to contact me directly? Tx, Lisa."

The Washington Times reported on that email on Tuesday.

Under open-records laws, all government business is supposed to be conducted using official accounts so they can later be searched for Freedom of Information Act requests. Doing business on private accounts circumvents that.

The law says that in emergencies, if a private email must be used, the employee is supposed to forward the correspondence to an official account so it can still be checked. There is no evidence Ms. Jackson did that.

Ms. Jackson, who resigned late last year as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to take a job with Apple, did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to her private email account Thursday afternoon.

The two lawmakers, in their letter, said Ms. Jackson may be in violation of the Federal Records Act.

"As the EPA administrator, we expect you would have knowledge of EPA's policy that explicitly prohibits use of non-EPA.gov e-mail for business purposes," the Republicans said.

While Ms. Jackson was chief of the agency, employees were repeatedly reminded about the rules for private email use, the lawmakers said.

Ms. Jackson and the EPA have been fending off accusations about inappropriate email use for months after Christopher Horner, a researcher affiliated with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, uncovered a secondary official government address Ms. Jackson used under the alias "Richard Windsor."

Mr. Horner questioned whether Ms. Jackson was using that secondary address to avoid public scrutiny.

But the latest revelation involves another account that Ms. Jackson kept as her personal, private email.

Earlier this year, with the EPA accusations swirling, an acting administrator who took over after Ms. Jackson left ordered the entire department to be retrained in open-records laws.

Since then the Senate has confirmed a permanent successor, Administrator Gina McCarthy.

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