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Inspector General: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Used Personal Email for Government Business


A report from the Department of Education’s Inspector General released Monday found that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had used her personal email account to send or receive almost 100 emails directly relating to government business and has failed to properly save a number of messages.

The investigation, which came at the request of House Democrats, concluded that their search of the department’s email server revealed a “limited number” of messages (“less than 100”) linked to four of Devos’ personal accounts.

The majority of the emails dated back to Devos’ first six months in office and most of them were from the same person who was not identified. The unidentified emailer was writing DeVos with their recommendations of candidates for agency jobs.

Employees of the department are prohibited from using personal email accounts to conduct official government business except in rare or extreme circumstances when their government accounts are unavailable. In the event that government emails are unavailable, employees may use personal accounts, provided they forward the messages to their government accounts within 20 days.

Regarding a particular May 31 request, the report reads:

“…this request asked for all communications sent to or from any nongovernmental email address established, controlled, or used by the Secretary from January 20, 2017, to the date the Department conducted the search. On June 7, 2017, the Department’s response stated that the request was assigned to staff in the Office of the Secretary to search for responsive records. It further stated that after a search of their files, the staff were unable to locate any documents that were responsive to the request. We identified three emails that were sent between the Secretary’s personal email account and Office of the Secretary staff from March-April 2017. The Deputy Director of the Executive Secretariat, within the Office of the Secretary, stated that after receiving the FOIA request, the Director of the Executive Secretariat spoke with the Secretary’s former Chief of Staff who said there were no records responsive to the request. The Deputy Director stated that no other search of records was performed.”

Investigators concluded that there was no evidence of “active or extensive” use of the accounts for official business, but did identify five emails sent by DeVos from her personal accounts that dealt with official government business. In those instances, DeVos failed to follow proper procedure as she did not forward the messages to her government account.

The Inspector General’s report recommended that the department improve their training of employees regarding the use of personal emails in the future.

[image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.