Depositions taken last month show that former Democratic Governor Mike Easley was hiding a lot from the people of North Carolina. Testimony from his former communications directors for a public records lawsuit brought by the John Locke Foundation and several news outlets show that Governor Easley had a private email address that he used to conduct state business. Because email messages are considered public information, Locke and the news outlets sued the Easley administration when they found that messages were being deleted, or in the case of Easley’s secret account, not revealed at all, even when requests for information were made.
Easley’s private email address, a Road Runner account, was “Nick Danger” spelled backwards, presumably a reference to the fictional private eye.
In an April 2008 interview, Easley made it clear that he thought private email addresses should be public record if they contained messages pertaining to state business. North Carolina Public Records Law applies to every message “in connection with the transaction of public business by any agency of North Carolina government.” Although Easley said on the record that he understood the law, he continued to keep his email account and the state business he conducted using it a secret.
According to the communications staff in the deposition made public yesterday, Easley’s communications director, Sherri Johnson, instructed public information officers in several Cabinet agencies to delete emails to and from his office, and not to mention his office in emails. Officers were instead instructed to use the telephone for most communication, and not to mention the order in emails. This policy likely came about from feelings arising after an email from the Department of Cultural Resources painting Easley in a negative light.