May 23, 2007

CREW Sues Department of Education Over Federal Records Act Violations

Washington, DC – This week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sued the Department of Education for violating the Federal Records Act (FRA) by failing to preserve copies of emails of official Education business sent by agency employees through the use of non-governmental email accounts.

The suit is based on information CREW learned in the course of discussing a pending Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with Education employees, including officials from the Office of the General Counsel. Specifically, Education officials informed CREW, during two separate conversations, that agency employees were using outside email accounts for official business and that those documents would not be accessible in response to CREW’s FOIA request.

The FRA requires agencies to make and preserve records of agency decisions, policies and essential transactions and to take steps to safeguard against the loss of agency records. If Education employees are regularly using private email accounts to send official email and the Department neither tracks nor stores such email, the Department would be in violation of the FRA.

Last week, CREW sent a letter to the Education Inspector General’s office requesting an immediate investigation into these practices. CREW has not yet received a response.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW said today, “Complying with laws -- such as the Federal Records Act -- is not optional. Regretfully, it appears that a lawsuit is required to ensure that the Department of Education follows the law.” Sloan continued, “The question remains as to whether it is only Department of Education and White House personnel who have been violating record-keeping procedures, or if this is an Administration-wide issue.”


Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit or contact Jordan Libowitz at 202.408.5565 or

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