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Scott email deletions an oversight, investigation says

Published Jun. 21, 2012

TALLAHASSEE — Florida authorities have concluded that Gov. Rick Scott and members of his transition team did not willingly delete public records shortly before Scott was sworn into office.

But a 10-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is ending without "absolute certainty" that authorities were able to recover all the emails that were written or sent to Scott and those helping him before his inauguration in January 2011.

The governor asked for the investigation last August after media reports revealed that emails were missing.

The FDLE report called the loss of emails and other public records an "oversight" by top campaign officials and the private company that was hired to handle email accounts for Scott after he was elected in 2010.

The report states that two top campaign aides, including Scott campaign manager Susie Wiles, closed down the email accounts without consulting the governor and without realizing data would be lost.

"The evidence obtained during the course of this investigation would indicate that the email data associated with the email accounts was deleted as a result of an oversight … and not as a result of any malicious or criminal intent to destroy public records," states the executive summary of the investigation.

FDLE officials say they were able to recover many, but not all of the emails written and sent by the governor and his transition team, partly because there was an "insufficient legal basis" to shut down and look at the server utilized by the private company that handled Scott's email accounts.

FDLE also concluded that a forensic recovery of the data was impossible and it was unable to obtain email data from many of the smartphones used by transition team members.

But the Scott administration announced that it would put more than 33,000 pages of transition documents obtained through the investigation on the state's Project Sunburst website that now features emails of top administration officials.

The FDLE report notes that Scott and his staff were sent an email in January 2001 explaining that transition email accounts would be shut down at the end of that month.

Wiles told FDLE she approved shutting down the transition email accounts because the campaign is required to close its bank accounts 90 days after the election. But she said she did not know that the information would not be preserved.