White House sued over official’s email records

A top White House science official who warned colleagues against using personal email to conduct government business has been doing it himself, according to accusations in a lawsuit filed Monday.
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren continued using his old email account from an environmental research group long after he joined the Obama Administration, the Competitive Enterprise Institute charged in court documents.

The CEI is trying to obtain Mr. Holdren’s emails and cited what the group called the “continued refusal” by officials to produce them.

The group said in court papers that a separate records request by the Environmental Protection Agency had revealed that Mr. Holdren was using his old email account from the Woods Hole Research Center after joining the administration for government work.

The use of personal email accounts has come under scrutiny from transparency groups and lawmakers who say the practice, which violates federal records law, shields historical and legal documents from public view.

Back in 2010, Mr. Holdren sent a memo to his office’s staff reminding them of the importance of complying with the Federal Records Act.

The memo stated that OSTP had learned in response to a recent open records request that an unnamed staff member had forwarded work emails to his personal email account.

“To ensure that we comply with the FRA [Federal Records Act] with respect to emails, all OSTP-related email communications should be conducted using your OSTP email accounts,” Mr. Holdren wrote.

Republicans argue the practice of using private emails for government work is an epidemic. They have pointed to a number of EPA officials who they accused of doing it and have also charged that Lois G. Lerner, the woman at the center of the IRS tea party targeting inquiry, was using her private email for government business.

The George W. Bush White House likewise came under scrutiny after congressional investigators in 2007 found aides using Republican National Committee accounts to discuss government business.
Neither the OSTP nor Woods Hole officials had an immediate comment on the lawsuit Monday.

Mr. Holdren was named to the OSTP job as President Obama began his first term. He previously taught at Harvard and was president and director at the Woods Hole Research Center.