EPA investigating Lisa Jackson's, agency's use of private email accounts

12 18, 2012 by The Times-Picayune

The Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General announced Monday that it is beginning an audit of agency employees' use of private email accounts and "aliases" or false names in conducting official business.

In November, Republican leaders of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee began their own investigation into the alleged use of private emails after the Daily Caller reported that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson used alias email accounts, including one under the name of "Richard Windsor." At that time, it requested inspectors general for several federal agencies, including EPA, to conduct their own investigations.

"This reported incident follows similarly secretive and highly questionable methods of communication by senior officials at science agencies within the White House, Department of Commerce, and Department of Energy," said a press release issued by the committee on Nov. 16. It said the use of private or alias email accounts may violate the Federal Records Act, Freedom of Information Act, Presidential Records Act and other statutes.

In a statement issued to Politico, EPA said senior administrators have traditionally been assigned two official, government-issued email accounts, a public account and one for internal messages to communicate with staff and other government officials.

In a memorandum announcing the beginning of the audit, Assistant Inspector General for Audit Melissa M. Heist said its objective "is to determine whether EPA follows applicable laws and regulations when using private and alias email accounts to conduct official business."

The audit will determine whether EPA established and implemented email records management policies for private or alias accounts, provided adequate training to employees concerning their use to conduct official business, established oversight processes to ensure employees comply with regulations and the law, and whether the agency has reprimanded, counseled or taken administrative actions against any employees for using such accounts.

It also will determine whether the agency encouraged use of the accounts to conduct official government business.

"We plan to conduct this audit in EPA Headquarters and regional offices," the memo said.