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Newly released emails show EPA director’s extensive use of fictional alter ego
Former chief’s alias lauded for good job
Question of the Day
Richard Windsor never existed at the EPA, but the agency awarded the fictional staffer’s email account certificates proving he had mastered all of the agency’s technology training — including declaring him a “scholar of ethical behavior,” according to documents disclosed late last week.
Windsor.Richard@epa.gov was the controversial email alias used by former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, who resigned earlier this year amid questions about whether her agency was complying with open-records laws.
The new records — the latest in a series that EPA critics have pried loose under open-records requests — suggests Ms. Jackson used the alias even more widely than known, including taking required agency computer training under the fake identity.
EPA officials say there’s nothing unusual in that, since Ms. Jackson used the alternate address regularly to conduct agency business.
The new records show the Windsor account was awarded certificates showing he has “satisfactorily competed the online email records management training”; took the 2010 “No FEAR Act Training Module”; and a completed a “Cybersecurity awareness training” course in 2011, where he scored 83 percent.
Windsor was also awarded the “scholar of ethical behavior” each year from 2010 through 2012. The only training Ms. Jackson appears to have done under her own name was for cybersecurity awareness in 2010.
“At least her alter ego was up on the law and ethics of federal record-keeping,” said Christopher Horner, the researcher and senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who made the open-records request that pushed EPA to release the certificates.
Mr. Horner first revealed the existence of the alternate addresses last year in his book “The Liberal War on Transparency,” and since then has pushed for more disclosure about the practice.
In a letter to Mr. Horner that acknowledged his repeated prodding, EPA official Eric W. Wachter, director of the office of the secretariat, said it was not unusual for Ms. Jackson to get certified under her alias, since that was the account she happened to be signed in as when she took the online testing.
“As you will recall from many of your previous requests, Administrator Jackson’s secondary email account was email@example.com, and she completed the EPA-hosted, computer-based training while using that particular account,” Mr. Wachter wrote.
EPA officials said Ms. Jackson kept the secondary address because her main email was published on the agency’s website, and she needed a way to conduct agency business that wouldn’t get lost in a flood of emails from the public that went to that official account. EPA said previous administrators, including those under Republican President George W. Bush, also had secondary emails for internal use.
But Republicans countered that Ms. Jackson took the secondary email further than any of her predecessors. They said that the other administrators still attached their real name to their secondary accounts, while Ms. Jackson did not.
In response to a request from The Washington Times, EPA officials could not say whether those prior administrators ever got certified under any of their aliases.
In a set of emails released to Mr. Horner earlier this year Ms. Jackson appeared to using the email to pretend she really was Windsor.
Mr. Horner argues that the secondary email matters because it wasn’t clear that EPA was searching those records in response to open-records requests for Ms. Jackson’s emails. Mr. Horner said that EPA didn’t really begin to produce emails from the Richard Windsor account until after he exposed that address.
EPA contends that it did search the Windsor account as part of open-records requests.
But the agency has acknowledged it has fallen short in many transparency areas.
In April acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe wrote a letter telling all agency employees that they must do a better job of storing emails and computer instant messages, as required by law.
He said all employees would have to retake training classes.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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