Washington (CNN) - New questions are being raised about Mitt Romney's last days as governor of Massachusetts and the way he handled records of his administration. Those same questions are following Romney on the campaign trail, raising concerns by some about how transparent he would be if elected president.
The office of Romney's successor, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, sent CNN documents showing that Romney's administration spent nearly $100,000 in state funds to completely replace computers in his office, just before Patrick assumed the governorship in January of 2007. The documents are two lease agreements for the computers. The first one, from 2005, shows the state paid just over $107,000 for the computers. That agreement was supposed to last three years.
But a second lease agreement shows a new contract was drawn up in January 2007 for new computers, costing the state nearly $206,000. With the computer replacement, Patrick's office says, some crucial data was wiped out.
In an e-mail to CNN, Mark Reilly, chief legal counsel to Patrick, said: "The Governor's Office has found no emails from 2002 – 2006 in our possession. Before the current administration took office, the computers used during that time period were replaced and the server used during that time period was taken out of service, all files were removed from it and it was also replaced."
Patrice McDermott of the watchdog group Open the Government told CNN: "Clearly in Massachusetts it's not illegal to do that… But because something is not illegal doesn't mean that it's right or ethical or acceptable to the public to do so. And we believe that the records of political officials –elected political officials - belong to the public, in this case to the public of Massachusetts. And they should have been preserved."
When Romney left office, according to state officials, at least 11 of his aides bought the hard-drives of their state-issued computers. Patrick's office sent CNN copies of checks written by the aides. Most were in the amount of $65.00, made out to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with the words "hard drive" printed on the memo lines of some checks. Theresa Dolan, director of administration in Massachusetts under Romney and five other governors, Republican and Democrat, told Reuters that in all those years, "No one had ever inquired about or expressed the desire" to buy their hard-drives.
CNN inquired with Gov. Patrick's office about the records and the checks for the hard-drives following a report in the Boston Globe.
There are also questions about whether Romney gave his own team proper access to some files in the waning days of his administration. John O'Keefe, who served as executive director of legislative affairs for Romney, says he was recruited to archive Romney's records as governor during the last month of the administration. O'Keefe says he and a small team of aides recovered almost 700 boxes of records and sent them to the state archivist.
In an interview with CNN, O'Keefe said he was allowed to go virtually anywhere in the statehouse, gather any records he needed for the archives. But he says there was a different procedure when it came to the so-called "third floor", which housed the offices of Romney and his closest aides.
The third floor, O'Keefe said, "was actually really office-specific. So you had the chief of staff, the communications director, the deputy communications director, the deputy chiefs of staff. They archived their own offices. So it was handled differently than the rest of the governor's offices."
Contacted by CNN, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul sent an e-mail saying "Gov. Romney followed precedent in the handling of documents in his office and there was nothing unusual about it. He voluntarily transferred 700 boxes of documents to the state archives, more than any prior governor".
Saul also pointed to a report on the website "Politifact," which did a fact-check on the matter. Politifact wrote: "The Romney administration's decision to keep its computer hard drives and erase most electronic files is neither illegal nor unusual. According to state records officials, past governors such as Weld, Cellucci and Swift have not made their electronic records available to the state archive or to the incoming administration, according to state staff. They have submitted some computer print-outs to the state archive, but Romney did that, as well."
Approached by reporters on the campaign trail, Romney said, "We followed the law, exactly as intended and as written."
Romney spokeswoman Saul also accused the Patrick administration of being politically motivated in releasing this information, telling the Boston Globe that Patrick was “doing the Obama campaign’s dirty work.” Patrick is a close ally of President Obama. A Patrick aide denied that, saying his office was only responding to media requests for public documents.