An investigation to determine whether a top aide of Mayor Thomas M. Menino broke the law by inappropriately deleting e-mails will not be complete until after the election on Nov. 3, Attorney General Martha Coakley said this afternoon.
Attorney General Martha Coakley
Investigators must comb through thousands of documents and interview witnesses to determine whether the intent when the e-mails were erased was to willfully violate the state's public record law. Secretary of State William F. Galvin referred the case to Coakley's office today after he determined that e-mails had been "inappropriately" deleted without permission and should have been preserved under the state's public record law.
"I know that people are anxious about this. In fairness, there's a ton of documents," Coakley said in a telephone interview. "It's important to do it. I want to do it quickly. I want to do it thoroughly. But we're going to do it on a timeline that makes sense for the fairness of the outcome."
Menino is trying to fend off a reelection challenge from Michael F. Flaherty, whose campaign issued a statement blasting Menino's handling of the investigation, saying the mayor "has consistently been dishonest throughout this entire process."
"This willful destruction of evidence is not an honest mistake -- it is not a glitch," said Flaherty, an at-large city councilor who has scheduled a press conference this afternoon with his running mate to discuss the development.
In the telephone interview this afternoon, Coakley added: "For anyone to suggest that within 10 days we would both have an investigation completed and have a resolution is not being realistic. We're talking about doing it right and determining if and when charges should be brought. I'm not going to be driven by someone else's artificial need."
Galvin issued a statement this morning that said: ďAfter a review of the recovered records, it is clear that some records were deleted inappropriately and without permission. It is the jurisdiction of the Attorney Generalís office to make a determination whether there has been a violation of law."
Galvin launched a probe after the Globe reported that one of the mayor's top aide's routinely deleted e-mails in such a way that they were not saved on back-up servers in potential violation of state public records law.
"The city is pleased that it's another step closer to closure on this matter," said Menino's spokeswoman, Dot Joyce, whose office issued a statement. "We will continue to work cooperatively with the attorney general's office in bringing this matter to closure."
The practice of deleting e-mails came to light when the Globe filed a public records request on April 1 for e-mail of several City Hall employees, including Michael J. Kineavy, the mayor's chief of policy and planning.
Municipal employees must save electronic correspondence for at least two years, even if the contents are of "no informational or evidential value." Penalties can include fine of up to $500 or one year in prison.
Kineavy announced earlier this month that he was taking an unpaid leave from City Hall because he said he had "become a distraction" during Menino's push for reelection.
Galvin, who is charged with overseeing the state public records law, ordered the city last month to seize Kineavy's computer and hire a forensics firm to try to retrieve deleted e-mails.
The investigation has potential repercussions for Coakley, who is a leading candidate in a special election for US Senate. She was asked at a press conference earlier this month whether she was avoiding an investigation of the Menino administration because of her alliance with the mayor, a fellow Democrat.
Coakley denied any conflict, saying, "Any suggestion that I was backing away from it or balking at it is just inaccurate."
Kineavy's e-mails are also the subject of a federal subpoena as part of a corruption investigation against state Senator Dianne Wilkerson and Councilor Chuck Turner. The FBI and US attorney's office have not said whether the city has satisfied the subpoena.
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