CREW Calls on DOE Inspector General to Investigate Violations of Federal Records Law
Washington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General (IG) Gregory H. Friedman to investigate whether DOE employees are purposefully using private email accounts for official business in order to shield the contents from the public and avoid having these messages captured by the department’s record keeping system.
A recent Washington Post article, based in part on documents obtained by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, detailed how DOE employees — including Jonathan Silver, the former head of DOE’s clean-energy loan program — used non-government email addresses to discuss the program and other official business. Such conduct violates the Federal Records Act (FRA).
“Whether it is a Republican or Democratic administration, it seems top federal officials will go to great lengths to keep their actions hidden from public view,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Using private email accounts for government business violates the law. The IG should immediately investigate to determine the full extent of this practice.”
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 DOE employees use private email accounts to send official email and the department neither tracks nor stores these messages, the department would be in violation of the FRA. Additionally, the documents obtained by the House conflict with earlier congressional testimony by Mr. Silver, who previously stated neither he nor his staff had used private email accounts to attempt to hide program discussions.
“Complying with the Federal Records Act is not optional,” continued Ms. Sloan. “In light of all the questions about DOE’s loan program, it is important to know those responsible for doling out large taxpayer-funded loans have nothing to hide. These latest revelations about DOE increase public skepticism about a program already mired in controversy.”