BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Republican North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley said Tuesday that an outside tech firm tried and failed to resurrect the deleted email accounts held by his predecessor Wayne Stenehjem and Stenehjem’s deputy.
The timing of the deletions had raised questions over whether the state’s open-records policy was violated.
“State Information Technology experts had previously informed this office that the emails in question were irretrievable,” Wrigley said in a statement. “While we had no reason to question their conclusion, we did ask that they hire outside consultants to make one final assessment. Plant Technologies, Inc. has now completed their evaluation, concluding that the State Information Technology Department was correct: the deleted email accounts no longer exist and cannot be resurrected.”
Wrigley's office did not respond to a question about how much the outside firm was paid.
The revelation of the deleted emails was made public in July in response to an open records request that the email account of former attorney general Wayne Stenehjem was deleted after he died and the account and former Chief Deputy Attorney General Troy Seibel was deleted after he resigned.
The open record requests centered around a $1.8 million cost overrun on the lease for the attorney general’s office when Stenehjem was in charge. Wrigley had to explain in his response why certain information was not available.
Wrigley had called the deletion of the emails concerning but not illegal, and dismissed bipartisan calls for an independent investigation into possible violations of North Dakota’s open records laws by the state attorney general’s office.
Wrigley, who was appointed to the post in February by Gov. Doug Burgum, said that an investigation by his office found no criminal wrongdoing by Liz Brocker, who handled the deletion of Stenhejem’s state email account.
The attorney general is tasked with investigating complaints about possible violations of state open records and meetings laws in state and local governments.
Wrigley has served twice as U.S. attorney in North Dakota and he spent six years as lieutenant governor. He won election this month with 71% of the vote.