Democrat Martin O’Malley, who has been loathe to criticize Hillary Rodham Clinton for using her personal e-mail account to do government business while secretary of state, often used his own private gmail account when he was governor of Maryland to communicate with staff and Cabinet officials.
Aides said Thursday that O’Malley’s use of the account was not at an attempt at secrecy. The private e-mails were subject to the same state public records laws as O’Malley’s government account — a point O’Malley himself alluded to during an appearance Wednesday at the Brookings Institution.
“In our state, whether you used a personal e-mail or a public e-mail or a carrier pigeon, it was all a public record subject to disclosure,” O’Malley, who is weighing a 2016 White House bid, said in response to one of several questions from reporters about Clinton’s practices.
Several other governors or former governors considering presidential runs have used private e-mail for government business, including Republicans Jeb Bush of Florida, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Perry of Texas, according to the Associated Press. Public disclosure laws vary considerably among states.
John R. Griffin, O’Malley’s former chief of staff, said O’Malley’s Gmail account was the governor’s primary means of electronic communication with those working for him. The private account was set up, Griffin said, because the then-governor’s state account was often flooded with outside e-mail, and it was more efficient for O’Malley to use Gmail to contact staffers.
Aides pointed to several news stories during O’Malley’s time in office that were based on the release of his private e-mails under the Maryland Public Information Act. Not all were flattering. In 2012, for example, there were stories about O’Malley’s correspondence with Perdue’s corporate lawyer as Maryland weighed farm pollution regulations being closely tracked by the poultry producer.
“Never TOO busy to hear from you,” O’Malley said in one message to the lawyer, with whom he attended law school.
In the wake of the Clinton uproar, O’Malley has been asked several times whether he will make his e-mails public, as Clinton has pledged to do pending a State Department review.
On Wednesday, O’Malley said he had complied with all Maryland public-disclosure laws and would continue to do so.
Maryland has no law mandating how long a governor must retain his e-mail, according to David Nitkin, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office.
Griffin said O’Malley regularly submitted all of his e-mails to his staff for review — including those from the private account — and to determine how to dispense with them.
Typically, e-mails were deleted after no more than a couple of months if they were not subject to a Public Information Act request or related to litigation, Griffin said. Those e-mails that were personal or political in nature might be deleted sooner, he said.
Timothy D. Baker, Maryland’s acting state archivist, said O’Malley recently turned over a large cache of material to the state archives, including what appear to be a significant number of e-mails sent by O’Malley. Baker said staff had not processed the material and that he was not aware of the scope of its contents.
Typically, Baker said, once a governor’s materials are in possession of the state archives, they are open to public inspection with the consent of the governor.