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Two state senators want answers about deleted e-mails and cost-overruns in the Attorney General's office

Senators Tracy Potter (D-Bismarck) and Joan Heckaman (D-New Rockford) at a Capitol news conference
Dave Thompson
Senators Tracy Potter (D-Bismarck) and Joan Heckaman (D-New Rockford) at a Capitol news conference

Two Democratic State Senators say they want answers on why former North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s e-mail account was deleted – after he passed away – and why the Attorney General’s office felt it had the authority to move money from a salary line item into an account that paid for an overrun of a lease paid for a private building.

Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman (D-New Rockford) and Senator Tracy Potter (D-Bismarck) held a news conference at the Capitol, to raise questions about what happened in each case. Heckaman is a member of the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee, and Potter serves on the interim Government Finance Committee. They told reporters they want to know if state law or state procedures were violated in these cases.

"We are a state known for open records," Potter said. "Yet these e-mails were deleted specifically to prevent an open-records request."

Potter said you can say this is not a "nefarious" intent, but it's a wrong-headed intent.

"These are the records owned by the people of North Dakota," Potter said.

After the news conference, Attorney General Drew Wrigley asked Potter to come to his office.

Reporters followed.

Wrigley told Potter he’s had a number of people look at the issue of the deleted e-mails.

"I'm talking about people who created these open records, and have worked with them more closely than anyone, and are employed by media organizations," Wrigley told Potter. "There's nothing illegal here."

Wrigley said it doesn't make this a good thing.

"Sen. Potter and I agree on that," Wrigley said. "It's a loss."

Wrigley said he would be willing to work with the Legislature to draft a universal policy or law governing what happens to e-mails.

Heckaman said she is wondering if some of the deleted e-mails had to do with those cost overruns in that building.

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