Gov. Rick Scott's magically deleted email debacle is starting to sound a bit ridiculous already, even though he's ordered an "investigation" by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
As you may recall, St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald capitol reporter Michael C. Bender went looking for some emails from the governor and his transition team while Scott was Florida's governor-elect and was told on August 18 that the emails he'd requested months ago were deleted in April.
Now, not only do we have another outrageous public-records fiasco from the governor's office but the St. Petersburg Times also suggests that there may have been a "cover-up" of what really happened to those emails.
That "investigation" Scott ordered the FDLE to perform came just one day after the St. Petersburg Times says the governor told the paper it had received all the emails.
The man who was Scott's attorney during his transition period as governor-elect says members of Scott's staff simply didn't understand that the emails would be deleted when they closed their account with the private hosting company, Rackspace.
Rackspace has an agreement that customers must sign or accept to when they purchase the company's services. Among those conditions are statements that make it very clear that if you don't ask for emails to be archived, they'll be deleted and even recommends archiving services for customers with "regulatory requirements":
5.3 We do not promise to backup your data unless you have purchased backup services. If you purchase backup services, we do not promise to retain the data backup for longer than the agreed data retention period.
5.5 Certain Rackspace Services are designed to help you comply with various regulatory requirements that may be applicable to you. However, you are responsible for understanding the regulatory requirements applicable to your business and for selecting and using those Services in a manner that complies with the applicable requirements.
Well, is ignoring those terms the fault of Scott's staff or the fault of Harris Media, the company the Times says was hired to handle online communication for the governor's transition team that actually held the contract with Rackspace?
As Peter Schorsch of Saint Petersblog pointed out, Harris Media's vice president of business development and marketing is Allison Guimard -- the woman who sometimes goes by the name "Allison Scott," because, of course, she's Rick Scott's oldest daughter.
When the Herald discovered this a few weeks ago, they called Guimard to see if she had any comment on the situation. Scott's office called back instead and told the paper that her daughter's business was a private matter and that "she does not solicit or take business from any state government clients."
Now that investigation will be handled by the FDLE, which isn't an ideal situation, according to the runner-up in the 2010 gubernatorial election, Alex Sink.
It's not exactly an independent investigation, Sink says, because Gerald M. Bailey -- the commissioner of the FDLE -- is employed at the will of Scott and his Cabinet.
Of course, Scott has a stake in how this all ends up -- the penalty for "knowingly violating" the state's public records law is subject to penalties as extreme as impeachment and jail time, while other violations that aren't done "knowingly" carry the maximum penalty of a $500 fine.
Still, the governor has requested the FDLE to look into the matter, asking that it "investigate thoroughly the issue of how the Rackspace email accounts came to be closed and whether any of the email data in those accounts can be recovered."
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