The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s watchdog will examine the use of alias e-mail addresses by agency officials, including by administrator Lisa Jackson.
The EPA’s Inspector General will audit whether the phony e-mail addresses were used to shield official business from open records laws, according to a memorandum the office sent to top agency officials on Dec. 13.
“Our objective is to determine whether EPA follows applicable laws and regulations when using private and alias e-mail accounts to conduct official business,” Melissa Heist, assistant inspector general, said in the memo.
The watchdog will examine whether EPA executives “promoted or encouraged the use of private or alias e-mail accounts to conduct official government business,” Heist said. Jackson, who used a supplemental e-mail address called “Richard Windsor,” wasn’t mentioned in the memo.
The EPA has said administrators have used one e-mail account for public correspondence and a separate one for internal communications for nearly two decades, which would pre-date the administration of President Barack Obama. The agency said it complies with the Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Records Act.
The allegation about alias e-mail accounts at the agency was first made in September by Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based group that promotes smaller government and has criticized EPA regulations.
Jackson’s public e-mail address received more than 1.5 million messages in fiscal year 2012, demonstrating the need for the second account for “effective management and communication” within the agency, the EPA said in a letter to Representative Ralph Hall, Republican of Texas, on Dec. 12. The practice “is commonly employed in both the public and private sector,” it said.
Alisha Johnson, an EPA spokeswoman, said today the agency “welcomes an investigation because we have nothing to hide.”