Emails from Palin's first month as governor missing

State offers no explanation.

June 13, 2011 

Nearly a month of former Gov. Sarah Palin's emails are missing from the documents released to media organizations last week, a gap that raises questions about what other emails might also be missing from what's being nationally reported as her record as Alaska governor.

The records include no emails between Dec. 8, 2006 and Dec. 29, 2006. The state's log of emails that it withheld from public release also lists none from that time period.

That means, if the record is to be trusted, Palin did not send or receive a single email about state business during a time when she was busy taking the first major actions of her new administration. That means zero emails during a period during which, among other things, Palin put out her proposed state budget, appointed an attorney general, killed the contract for a road out of Juneau and vetoed a bill that sought to block state public employee benefits to same-sex couples.

The state had no explanation Monday.

"I don't have any information on the missing documents," said Linda Perez, administrative director for Gov. Sean Parnell. "I forwarded all that off to (state technology services) and asked them if they would search their search criteria and see if they can explain or come up with any reason for this."

One likely factor is Palin's decision to use private email accounts for state business rather than her official state account

It's a practice she kept up for most of her term. So while the Palin emails are being reported as an account of her time as governor, it's far from a complete record.

Palin took office Dec. 4, 2006. The only emails that the state released dating from between then and Dec. 8, other than a message to Palin from a constituent, came from Marty Rutherford, deputy commissioner in the department of natural resources.

On Dec. 8, a Palin aide told Rutherford to use a different account.

"Marty, I wanted to let you know that this is a 'public' address for the Governor, it is not one that she has access to. I check this account daily, and can forward things on, but I am worried that emails might get missed as there are times when I am unable to check it for hours," wrote Michelle Fabrello, constituent relations director, in an email to Rutherford.

"Thank you so much!! I have the Governor's personal email as well, so I'll just use that for awhile," Rutherford wrote back to Fabrello.

Then the Palin email record went silent for three weeks.

The next email released by the state has a date of Dec. 29, 2006. It's an email to govpalin@yahoo.com by her communications director, Meg Stapleton, telling Palin that Bloomberg News wanted to interview her about the gas pipeline.

The first released email that was written by Palin herself isn't dated until Jan. 2, 2007, almost a month after she took office

The gap isn't because of the state withholding emails as exempt from the Alaska public records law. The log of withheld emails shows the first one held back was from Jan. 6. It appears as though the state simply doesn't have the emails.

State technicians have attempted to retrieve official emails sent from Palin's private accounts by sifting through the state accounts of 55 aides and officials she was considered most likely to contact, looking for emails from or to Palin's accounts.

But the nearly month-long gap in the record raises questions about how effective that was in recovering the documents. It also raises the question of how many other emails that Palin sent on state matters might also be missing from the record.

Officials said Palin eventually stopped using private accounts for state business after her Yahoo account was hacked in September 2008. "When her email account was hacked back in 2008, her Yahoo account was closed. At that time we were able to retrieve less than 100 documents from that particular email account," said Sharon Leighow, spokeswoman for Parnell and who had a similar job under Palin. "It's my understanding that Yahoo has an auto-delete system, so the records weren't recoverable."

The website help.yahoo.com says if an email is sitting in the "trash" it is automatically deleted at an occasional interval. "After messages are emptied from Trash, they're permanently deleted from the Yahoo! Mail server and can't be recovered."

Media organizations and individuals made public records requests for all emails Palin sent or received on official business as governor.

The state Friday released six boxes of printed emails said to range from when she took office until Sept. 30, 2008, when she was running for vice president.

Requests are pending for emails from the rest of Palin's term as governor, which ended with her resignation in July 2009.

The documents released by the state Friday included 24,199 pages of emails. The state withheld 2,415 pages, mostly giving the reason of "Executive/Deliberative Process," a broad exemption to the Alaska records law that covers internal discussions of policy before a decision is made.

State lawyers recommended which emails or portions of emails to withhold. The final decisions were then made by Parnell's office, which includes holdovers from the Palin administration such as Chief of Staff Mike Nizich and his deputy, Randy Ruaro.

The Daily News asked who in the governor's office reviewed the emails and if the governor's office asked for any to be withheld or blacked out beyond what state lawyers had recommended.

"Senior staff had the opportunity to review. Whether the governor's office asked for any emails to be redacted or withheld falls under attorney/client privilege," Parnell spokeswoman Leighow wrote.


Reach Sean Cockerham at scockerham@adn.com or 257-4344.

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