EPA IG audits administrator’s private e-mail account


EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson speaks at the 2012 Tribal Nations Conference on Dec. 5, 2012, at the Interior Department in Washington. The EPA Inspector General probes Lisa Jackson’s private e-mail account, named for her family dog. (Susan Walsh/AP)
December 18, 2012

Combine your family dog’s name with the name of your old home town and what do you get? In the case of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, you get in trouble with some lawmakers for having a less-than-obvious e-mail handle.

At the request of congressional Republicans, the EPA’s inspector general has begun auditing how Jackson has used this secondary e-mail account, “Richard Windsor” — named for her dog and the New Jersey township, East Windsor.

The inquiry, according to a Dec. 13 memo written by Melissa M. Heist, the agency’s assistant inspector general for audit, aims “to determine whether EPA follows applicable laws and regulations when using private and alias email accounts to conduct official business.”

Leaders of two House committees with jurisdiction over the EPA have questioned whether the agency has been fully transparent in its handling of electronic records. Last month, House science committee Chairman Ralph M. Hall (R-Tex.) and five of his colleagues wrote to EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr. and questioned whether Jackson violated federal law by using “private email and alias accounts to conduct official government business.” Last week, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and the panel’s chairman of its subcommittee on oversight and investigations, Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), called on Jackson in a letter to account for whether the use of an alias account “has in any way affected the transparency of the agency’s activities or the quality and completeness of information” it has provided the committee in the past.

In a letter to Hall last week, EPA Associate Administrator Arvin Ganesan wrote that for “nearly two decades EPA administrators have managed the agency with two email accounts” because one is publicly listed on the agency’s Web site. Jackson received more than 1.5 million e-mails on her primary account in fiscal 2012, he added.

Politico first reported news of the IG inquiry on Tuesday morning.

“We welcome an investigation into this,” EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson said Tuesday. “We don’t have anything to hide.”

Stearns said in a statement that although the audit would be helpful, Jackson should provide her own response to his and Upton’s inquiry.

“As noted in our letter, we have concerns these e-mail aliases may compromise the agency’s transparency,” he said. “While we welcome this investigation from the IG, the committee is still awaiting direct answers from EPA.”

Juliet Eilperin is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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