It looks like Lois Lerner – the former IRS manager at the center of the scandal targeting conservative groups – isn’t the only Obama administration official who lost emails subpoenaed by Congress.
Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is now believed to have deleted emails sought by congressional investigators trying to understand why Healthcare.gov had such a horrendous rollout.
“In order to stay below the agency’s Microsoft Outlook email size limit, Tavenner would regularly delete emails after copying or forwarding them to her staff for retention,” says the MSNBC report that broke the story. “However, Tavenner didn’t follow that procedure every time, meaning some emails never made it to her staff for safekeeping before being deleted.”
That could turn out to be a costly oversight for Tavenner.
As Jillian Kay Melchior points out, “Federal law tasks heads of all federal agencies with ‘mak[ing] and preserv[ing] records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency and designed to furnish the information necessary to protect the legal and financial rights of the Government and of persons directly affected by the agency’s activities.’”
Unlike Lerner who claims her IRS computer crashed taking with it unrecoverable emails – a claim disputed by IT experts inside and outside the tax-gathering agency – Tavenner, at best, is pleading that she’s too busy to follow the law. At worst, she’s the latest Obama administration official caught skirting her legal obligations to hide inconvenient truths.
To my knowledge, Tavenner isn’t considered an overt Obama loyalist, so it’s possible that the missing emails are a genuine oversight by a busy administrator. The trouble is, Tavenner works in an administration seemingly filled with people who are unwilling to comply with the kind of document sharing necessary for the people – through Congress – to understand and judge what unelected bureaucrats are doing. One of the tragedies of bad behavior by some is the suspicion it casts on everyone else on the team.
So be it.
Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has already pledged to hold hearings on alleged wrongdoing by agency heads when Congress returns from its August recess.
Don’t be surprised to see a hearing scheduled to get the truth about Tavenner’s missing emails.