Why Stenehjem’s assistant might be protected for having his emails deleted

Published: Jul. 23, 2022 at 7:09 AM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Last week, late Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s longtime assistant Liz Brocker resigned after it was discovered she had his email account deleted the day after he died in January of this year.

After Stenehjem’s assistant received the go-ahead from Deputy Attorney General Troy Seibel, she requested the account be deleted and North Dakota Information Technology (NDIT) completed her request.

Even though she deleted more than two decades worth of legal and historical documents, she might not be in any legal trouble.

The North Dakota IT Department requires a second-level approval before acting on requests, such as deleting things like an entire email account. Since the Deptuty Attorney General signed off on it, the decision was kosher. Additionally, each agency sets its own parameters for how to handle record retention. That means NDIT was simply acting at the request of the Attorney General’s office.

“When we get a request in from an agency, we know that there’s been a second level approval. It would take an infinite amount of time if we circled back on every request to verify with somebody within that agency, ‘Hey, is this is this really OK to do what such and such has asked us to do,’” said Greg Hoffman, deputy CIO for NDIT.

Going forward, lawmakers from around the state are already considering an overhaul of the state’s open record retention policies.

Thursday, amid bipartisan calls from leaders in both parties for an independent investigation, Attorney General Drew Wrigley told the Associated Press he won’t do so, saying the AG’s office “considers this matter closed.”

On the other hand, Dem-NPL Chair Patrick Hart told Your News Leader Wednesday that they’re considering taking legal action against Brocker.

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