TALLAHASSEE—The way it’s going, government hard drives might be the next protected class under federal law.
Internal Revenue Service hard drives containing two years of emails to and from Lois Lerner, the senior Obama administration official at the heart of the alleged political targeting of conservative nonprofits, have been “recycled” and the contents destroyed. So have six of her colleagues’ hard drives. A U.S. House committee is investigating.
Hard drive shenanigans aren’t just a federal issue.
A Broward County Sheriff’s Office internal affairs audit has revealed information on outgoing Sheriff Al Lamberti’s hard drive was lost after his subordinates destroyed it with a hammer. The audit was first reported by the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.
No motive was given in the report, but public information could have been destroyed. Investigators can’t be sure, but complete backup copies of Lamberti’s hard drive were not located.
The incident occurred sometime after Lamberti lost his re-election bid to rival Scott Israel in late 2012 and before Israel replaced him. The Broward Sheriff’s Office has 5,800 employees and a $700 million annual budget.
The report says Lamberti’s executive officer, Sgt. Donald Pritchard, told an employee from Broward Sheriff’s Office technology division, Anthony Petruzzi, to destroy the hard drive, which was said to have contained emails, calendar events and other saved items. Petruzzi had been seen by other Broward Sheriff’s Office employees with Lamberti’s blue Dell computer tower, and he reportedly told a sheriff’s office tech analyst he was supposed to erase it.
It’s a violation of Florida’s government-transparency laws to destroy public records. State law also requires public officials to deliver records to “successor(s) at the expiration of his or her term in office.”
According to the First Amendment Foundation, “the definition for public records is quite broad and includes all materials made or received by an agency in connection with official business.”
“At this point, all you can do is speculate what was there,” attorney Chris Torres of the Tallahassee-based Casey Torres law firm said.
“You can’t prove something is missing if you don’t know what’s missing,” said Torres, a former prosecutor with the Florida Office of the Attorney General.