Texas: Republican Official jeers request for Bush Administration e-mail files

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Comptroller says move by Democrats political


By Chris Williams / Associated Press

AUSTIN - Texas Democrats can have copies of 7.5 million e-mails in the comptroller's office - if they will pay $5.7 million and wait until 2170, said Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander.

"Assuming something dreadful doesn't happen, I'll be just over 230 years old," said Ms. Rylander, a Republican. "In case I'm not around, I'll leave a note in my top drawer for my successor to e-mail when it's all ready."

Mike Hailey, spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party, requested copies March 3 of all the agency's e-mail since Jan. 1, 1999.

Mr. Hailey said the party had decided to drop its request for the e-mail about two hours before Ms. Rylander delivered her response to the media but now wants more time to think about it. His boss was unimpressed by Ms. Rylander's response Friday.

Molly Beth Malcolm, Democratic chairwoman, said the party asked for the e-mail to prevent the comptroller's office from deleting potentially incriminating records.

"We submitted the request for e-mail to delay a possible wholesale destruction of records that belong to the people of Texas," she said. "Hopefully that was accomplished."

State law dictates that a state agency cannot destroy documents that have been requested under the Texas Public Information Act, agreed Ms. Malcolm and Mark Sanders, Ms. Rylander's spokesman.

Mr. Sanders said the agency plans to delete e-mail more than 15 days old from its main computers but will retain copies of important documents and e-mail as required by law.

The two sides squabbled over a records request in September 1999 in which the party asked for audio tapes of telephone conversations made by general counsel Steve Koebele.

Ms. Rylander asked for Mr. Koebele's resignation after learning of the secret taping. The tapes were discarded, although the agency did release summaries of their contents.

"The comptroller's office simply cannot be trusted," Ms. Malcolm said. "They destroyed public records, and then they lied about it."

She said the Democratic Party would not pay the $5.7 million bill.

The comptroller's office sent an itemized bill for delivering the e-mail Friday, including $3.34 million to remove tax information about specific people and businesses, Mr. Sanders said.

The bill also says state employees would have to spend 2,652 hours finding the e-mail, 41,667 hours transferring it to paper, 125,000 hours reviewing their work and 187,500 hours removing the confidential tax information.

"I'm here serving the taxpayers of Texas, not the political whims of the Democrat Party," Ms. Rylander said.


-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), March 21, 2000

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