Washington, D.C. – Recent news reports have indicated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appears to have deleted thousands of text messages sent and received by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on her official agency phone, including those that would qualify as federal records under the law. Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today sent a letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins, Jr. requesting a review of EPA’s records management policies. 

Chairman Smith:  “Despite promises to create an ‘unprecedented level of openness in government,’ this administration routinely withholds information from the public.  Particularly at the EPA, there appears to be a pattern of behavior directed at subverting transparency and accountability.  Federal guidelines are clear that all messages sent between agency heads and their colleagues must be preserved. Why delete thousands of text messages unless you have something to hide?  Americans deserve transparency from their government officials. Administrator McCarthy should either stop deleting text messages, or stop texting.”

While EPA has formally notified the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) about the potential loss of federal records from the deleted text messages, an EPA spokeswoman was quoted as saying, “Despite the filing…the agency maintains that the text messages neither had to be preserved nor were subject to disclosure.  Text messages can legally be deleted.”

Chairman Smith’s letter requests that the IG conduct a review of EPA’s compliance with its records management policies in order to “better evaluate the impact of EPA’s deleted text messages on the preservation of federal records, the ability of the public to access government information and Congress’ ability to conduct proper oversight.” 

The letter also highlights the fact that Administrator McCarthy is not the first senior-level administration employee to face questions about lost or deleted federal records.  She is accompanied by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, and former Internal Revenue Service Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner.

The full letter can be found here.