Documents Reveal New Twist In Destroying Romney Staff Emails

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — Documents obtained by WBUR show that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s staff shortened the lease for computers in the governor’s office. The change in leases allowed the governor’s staff to wipe the hard drives on all the computers before returning them to the leasing company. It’s the latest development in the story of Romney and why his staff destroyed electronic records before he left office.

Reading the state’s conservation of public records law is a little bit like exploring an archaic document.

Pam Wilmot, the director of Common Cause Massachusetts, knows this firsthand.

“Literally, they talk about records as if they’re paper and the percentage of animal product they have to have and the kind of glue and watermark, and all these other outdated concepts, and don’t talk about preserving electronic versions,” Wilmot said.

Massachusetts law does require the governor to turn over all emails to the state archives, even if they are not made public. They can be destroyed, but they have to be printed before they are wiped out. Two sources told WBUR that Romney’s staff did say they printed their emails before they destroyed them. Still, over the weekend, in the town hall in Peterborough, N.H., Romney found himself trying to explain to reporters why 11 of his senior aides bought back their hard drives.

“Items that are personal or confidential, of course would not be appropriate to put in the public domain,” Romney said. “We’d be violating our trust in doing so.”

Romney said the documents his administration handed to the state archives provide a good view of how he worked.

“So we followed not only the law in Massachusetts, the precedent of prior governors and legislators, we went beyond that, providing 700 boxes of records,” Romney said.

Those were the paper records. Documents obtained by WBUR reveal yet another way Romney’s senior staff found reasons to destroy electronic records.

In 2005, Romney’s staff signed a three-year lease (PDF) for the computers in the governor’s office. But the next year, in December, 2006, a month after Deval Patrick won the election, Romney’s staff signed a new lease (PDF), which began when Patrick took office, in January, 2007.

The new lease could be a completely innocuous attempt to give the new governor fresh computers. But it was standard practice to scrub the hard drives once a lease had expired, so changing the lease also allowed Romney’s staff to order the hard drives scrubbed before returning the old computers. We asked Romney’s campaign staff about this, but they didn’t get back to us.

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  • Anonymous

    Wow Fred – such cutting edge journalism. You could have started with the last line so readers wouldn’t bother with the article. Why are liberals so quick to defend their own but will use lack of evidence as a reason to write an article to disparage a person who doesn’t think like them? It wouldn’t be journalistic bias would it? Your messiah is going down in 2012 and there isn’t a baseless article you can write that will prevent it. Liberalism is dead.

    • Close2TheEdge

      Actually, this is an example of excellent investigative journalism.  As for the article being “biased” where is your evidence?  He’s reporting the facts, and even pointing out that this might be a coincidence.  This is not a trivial matter.  It goes right to the heart of open government and the right of the public to know.  If Romney’s administration used the vagueness of the law to eliminate official records, then that is something he needs to answer for.  Romney himself gave an interview on NH television in which he all but admitted that they did this to prevent “opposition research” when he ran for President.  Personally, I don’t think he was a bad Governor and probably wouldn’t be a bad President, but trying to use a strawman argument of “well, Democrats do this too” doesn’t dimish the fact that this is a serious issue.

      • Kn_little

        There is no story here.  It’s unethical journalism to insinuate that there is.  

        Hard drives should always be scrubbed clean.  No government or personal hard drive should ever be released into the public domain, whether disposal at the dump or return to the lease company, without being scrubbed.

        • Guest

          Rather than to address your illogical issue, the point is that he erased information that needed to be submitted to internal affairs. We are not talking about computers that end up in a “dump.”  We are talking about erasing potential evidence or historical data. Please learn the facts before posting inaccurate drivel.

          • Anonymous

            You’re the driveler. It states clearly he printed out and delivered 700 boxes of emails records. All emails are also backed up on tape so there is really no way to hide anything even if you scrubbed the disk drives. He knew he was running for POTUS back then so he was not going to do anything stupid. He already knew there wasn’t 57 states in the U.S. These reporters and papers yawn when there is a sitting President with an obscure and hidden past and obfuscates and blocks any attempt to free up information and records but when someone that doesn’t think like they do, they try to grasp at thin air to damage them. Liberalism is a mental disorder.

          • Close2TheEdge

            Wow, you are really aggressive.  Why not engage in a reasonable discussion about this instead of calling people names?  I’m sorry but there is enough here that it should be investigated.

        • Close2TheEdge

          Not if they contain material that is public record.  At the very least, the timing is suspicious and even a cursory review seems reasonable.  I’m not saying Romney is guilty of anything.  And even if he is, it may be perfectly legal.  But of what was done was a directive from him then the public has a right to know about it.  Then they can decide what that says about his character as a candidate.

      • Anonymous

        You must be Fred’s editor or mother. The article states there is no evidence of wrongdoing and because the Romney campaign didn’t return our calls………well, must be something here. This is the biggest non-story and hit attempt by a biased reporter and paper. This would not be allowed to be written by any paper with journalistic integrity but since it is a conservative, it is free game.

  • TimD

    Romney is one smart guy to scrub the hard drives. I would worry if a governor relinquishing power to someone in another Party was too stupid to scrub the hard drives.

  • Anonymous

    What is Romney hiding?  If he has nothing to hide, why is he hiding?

  • Kn_little

    This story seems more than  a bit premature.  There isn’t even a smoking gun.  Hard drives should be wiped clean before being disposed of, personal computers too. 

    It would be irresponsible to let hard drives out into the world without being scrubbed. 

    • Close2TheEdge

      It’s the deliberate change in lease that bothers me here.  That allowed them to erase the drives earlier than would have been allowed under the rules.  That suggests an attempt to erase anything that might have been embarrassing to his campaign.  Did he break the law?  No, probably not.  But something like this raises questions about who Romney is as a person.  I think it shows a shrewd, but ultimately craven politician.  How others judge him is their opinion.

      • Anonymous

        But you have no problem with a sitting President that is involved with benefiting his campaign donors (Solyndra) with half billion dollar contracts when they had no business plan, an AG that is running guns illegally in Mexico, an administration that has made it clear they want to promote illegal immigration, not solve it, etc. This is the most scandal ridden administration but let’s not focus on that, no, Romney ended his lease on computers early, now there is the real story. Total subterfuge. You’re one of Alinsky’s minions.

  • Anonymous

    Why weren’t the emails and other electronic documents backed-up on a server? If they were what happened to them?

    • Anonymous

      Of course they were backed up. This is a non-story. If you have a sitting POTUS that hides his questionable past, just point to the other guy and yell “Fire”!. It is a classic diversion tactic.

      • Close2TheEdge

        Kinda like what you are trying to do here?

    • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

      The emails were kept in three places: the hard drives, the Microsoft exchange server that processes all email for state government, and the governor’office server. 19 of the hard drives were bought back. The others were scrubbed clean when returned to the leasing company. All emails are taken off the exchange server 30 days after an agency, such as the governor’s office, deletes the user’s account. The governor’s office server was ordered wiped clean before Romney left office. 

  • Jelun

    Seems that it is all in the timing.

  • Zboog

    This is CLEARLY a distraction from real issues. Let it go. You have nothing. Romney is one of the most morally upstanding individuals to seek the office of presidency in decades.

    • HBA

      Pretty pathetic that the “most morally upstanding individual[] to seek the office of presidency in decades” is the one who changes his moral stances with every poll breeze.

  • Anonymous

    they killed the servers too….

    • Anonymous

      The server was wiped completely and the computers in the State House were even replaced. As a result the State House now has no electronic mail archive from anyone between 2002-2006.

      • Anonymous

        Knee-jerk reaction. You don’t understand technology. Every email ever written on public computers is backed up nightly and a full backup on weekends. They keep this off-site on tape by companies like IronMountain. They typically keep it on tape for years or indefinitely. They can find anything they want. Now focus your attention to the lying communist in the White House for the next 12 months.

        • Anonymous

          you assume FAR too much. but that is OK. I’ve seen plenty of backups “fail”. you know it all. now piss off.

        • Dejamoo

          So why did he destroy the records of his tenure in the Olympics? Governor..Olympics..Tax returns. I see a real pattern of deceit here!!!

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