It’s hard to hear about this week’s Environmental Protection Agency contempt case and not think about the controversies surrounding the IRS “loss” of Lois Lerner’s email–and hard drive–and crash of the relevant server.
According to an Associated Press report, a federal judge has held the EPA in contempt for destroying computer files sought after by a conservative group: Landmark Legal Foundation.
It’s taken more than 13 years.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth had ordered the EPA on Jan. 19, 2001, at the end of the Clinton administration, to preserve all documents relevant to a Freedom of Information Act request by Landmark regarding the federal agency’s contact with outside groups. That same day, EPA Administrator Carol Browner asked a technician to delete her computer files. Browner later testified that she was unaware of the court order and simply wanted to remove some games from her work computer.
According to AP, EPA officials later admitted wiping clean the computer files from Browner and other top staff despite Lamberth’s order.
In finding the EPA in contempt this week, Judge Lamberth ordered the agency to pay Landmark’s legal fees. That means that ultimately taxpayers foot the bill for the EPA’s misconduct.
In his order, Lamberth said the EPA had shown “contumacious conduct,” or obstinate resistance to authority.
Browner was not held in contempt.