Governor facing complaint over destroyed hard drives

Former Governor Mike Huckabee, who ordered the destruction of a number of computer hard drives before leaving office last month, is now the subject of the ethics complaint because of his actions.

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Former Governor Mike Huckabee, who ordered the destruction of a number of computer hard drives before leaving office last month, is now the subject of the ethics complaint because of his actions.

Hard drives in 83 computers and four servers were destroyed, according to Claire Bailey, director of the Arkansas Department of Information Systems (DIS). She said that her office backed up information from the servers, but not the computers, and gave the backup tapes to Huckabee’s former chief of staff. The DIS apparently did not retain a copy of the data on the backup tapes.

The computers from which the hard drives were removed and destroyed were located in the state Capitol; a state office in Washington; the Arkansas State Police airport hangar; the governor's mansion; and the Arkansas State Police drug office, she said.

The ethics complaint was filed on 29 January 2007 by Bella Vista resident, Jim Parsons, over concerns that state property had been destroyed. Parsons confirmed that he filed the complaint, but a spokesman for the Arkansas Ethics Commission – citing a confidentiality policy – would not confirm the existence of a complaint against Huckabee.

Parsons on 30 January also tried to file a criminal complaint against Huckabee with Larry Jegley, the prosecuting attorney of Pulaski County. That was one day after Huckabee, a Republican, filed papers to form an exploratory committee in advance of a possible run for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.

However, Jegley’s office did not accept Parsons’ complaint because it did not consider him to be a victim of a crime, according to First Deputy Prosecutor, John Johnson. If, in fact, destruction of the hard drives was a crime, the true victim of Huckabee’s actions would be the state agencies that owned the computers, he said.

The state spent $13,000 (£6,637) from its emergency fund to destroy the computer hard drives and server hard drives, Bailey said. Huckabee spokeswoman Alice Stewart said the former governor wanted to delete information that wasn't needed by the new governor, Mike Beebe.

“Governor Huckabee really wanted to go out of his way to ease the transition of the new governor, and part of that included us shutting down our own computer systems in enough time to remove the hard drives and get them destroyed and return the computers to Beebe’s office for them to just install the hard drives rather than get new computers,” she said.

Stewart denied that Huckabee destroyed the hard drives to expunge information that might reflect badly on him. And Huckabee himself said he was only trying to protect the privacy of data on the drives.

“This is not about destroying state property, this is about honouring our obligation to protect the privacy of the thousands of people who had personal data on those hard drives,” Huckabee said in a statement emailed to Computerworld. “We carried out recommendations from the DIS to destroy the hard drives. Anyone who is familiar with the ethics commission is aware that Jim Parsons is well known for filing numerous and frivolous complaints against various entities in state government.”

Parsons said he tried to file the criminal complaint against Huckabee because of concerns that the governor had destroyed state property. “I think anything over $100 is a felony, and I think this is a felony,” Parsons said. “I think to destroy property which is ours – and to spend [$13,000] to destroy it – is certainly a waste of taxpayers’ money. To destroy our records is just wrong.”

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