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Menino, Challengers Face Off Over Deleted E-Mails

The three candidates challenging Boston Mayor Thomas Menino in his bid for re-election are calling for a state criminal investigation into the deletion of City Hall e-mails erased by a top Menino aide.

City councilors Sam Yoon and Michael Flaherty and South End contractor Kevin McCrea held a joint news conference Monday morning accusing the Menino administration of violating state public records laws, which require municipal employees to save e-mails for two years.

Menino: “I expect charges by my opponents”

http://audio.wbur.org/storage//2009/09/news_0914_menino.mp3

“We are not talking about casual inbox maintenance or even a massive failure of technology,” said Councilor Flaherty, standing with Yoon and McCrea. “What transpired was the calculated and intentional erasure of likely thousands of public records.”

“These standards are standard,” Councilor Yoon said of the laws of access to public information. “If at the highest levels of the mayor’s office they’re not even understood, that defies credibility. And so it stands to reason that it’s worth investigating as to whether there’s some other methodical or programmatic aspect to the deletion of these e-mails.”

Menino said politics is behind his challengers’ calls for a criminal investigation.

Yoon: “It flies in the face of a modern standard”

http://audio.wbur.org/storage/2009/09/news_0914_yoon.mp3

The mayor said city officials have fixed a glitch in the system that allowed e-mails to be deleted and are working to recover the messages in question.

“Everything we’ve done in my administration and the e-mail situation has been corrected,” Menino told WBUR. “We found out a few months ago that they weren’t holding the deleted messages, and we believe we corrected that situation.”

“It’s just an opportunity for the other candidates to give themselves some press,” Menino added. “Our administration has always been up front on the issues, and we’ll continue to be that way.”

William Sinnott, the city’s corporation counsel, called the deletions an unfortunate gap in the system.

“There’s nothing to indicate that any of these messages were messages that were required to be retained by the city,” Sinnott said. “There was no violation of the law. There was no willful attempt to deprive the public or anyone of information.”

“I won’t be assured until there is an independent investigation,” Flaherty said. “Having the Menino administration officials make decisions as to what happened and what didn’t happen is probably the equivalent of letting the fox guard the hen house.”

No one has said what the e-mails might be about.

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