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Menino On Defensive In Deleted E-Mail Controversy 01:46
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Mayor Thomas Menino doesn't use e-mail. So it is ironic that a controversy over electronic messages hangs over his administration.

"This incident really does highlight how our city government is operating in the dark ages," City Councilor Sam Yoon said Wednesday at a City Council meeting. Yoon is challenging Menino in the mayoral race.

"If there are employees here who methodically delete e-mails as standard practice, there's a lack of understanding that it's a violation of the law," Yoon said.

City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who is also a mayoral candidate, called for a hearing to review the system for archiving e-mails at City Hall.

"I file this in an effort to identify what happened, and why it happened," Flaherty said, "and to get the assurances that the necessary safeguards are put in place to make sure that something like this never happens again."

With just days before the preliminary election in Boston's mayoral race, Mayor Menino is fighting off what some are calling the biggest controversy in his career.

This all started when the Boston Globe requested e-mail messages from Menino's staff members. The search turned up very few e-mails from a top aide, Michael Kineavy. He is known as a powerful man involved in every order of business, from development to the mayor's re-election campaign.

A story on the missing messages ran in the Sunday Globe. The mayor's challengers, including Yoon and Flaherty, jumped on the story, citing it as an example of a lack of transparency at City Hall. They called for a criminal investigation.

Three city councilors told WBUR this is "political" maneuvering by "desperate" underdogs in the mayoral race. Others said it is the longest-lasting controversy for Mayor Menino. But City Councilor John Tobin said it probably won't affect the preliminary election.

"If there is some sort of smoking gun that's in those e-mails that are going to be retrieved regarding high-profile cases around here, then I think there could be some problems," Tobin said.

One high-profile case involves former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who was indicted last year on federal corruption charges. The affidavit mentioned a mayoral aide Wilkerson called for help to secure a liquor license for a businessman in her district. The Globe stories suggest Kineavy was that aide.

Menino said he is cooperating with a state investigation in hopes that it will clear Kineavy.

"As mayor I don't want anybody to say that we're hiding information from anybody," Menino said in an interview. "That's why I'll cooperate with the secretary of state's office or anybody who's looking into this issue."

The secretary of state, William Galvin, has ordered the city to hire specialists to recover the e-mails from Kineavy's hard drive. The deadline for retrieval is three days after the preliminary election, which is next Tuesday.

The general election is more than a month later. That should be enough time for the public to find out just what's in that computer.

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This program aired on September 16, 2009.

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