December 6th, 2011
08:36 PM ET
10 years ago

Questions raised about Romney's disposal of records

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.

Filed under: 2012 • Deval Patrick • Massachusetts • Mitt Romney
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Ben Jammin

    So Romney followed the law and precedent set forth by the past governors by clearing their computers and saving the electronic files in hard copy format to the state archive. Sounds like we can move onto the next sensationalized accusation.

    December 6, 2011 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  2. Kris Craig

    You don't go to all that trouble and planning to shred official documents unless you've done something wrong. As the saying goes, "Where there's smoke, there's usually fire."

    The state's Director of Administration, who served both Republican and Democratic governors, said that she had never seen anything like this in all her years working there prior to Romney, according to the article. That contradict's the Romney campaign's own statements that there was nothing unusual about these moves.

    Why was Mitt Romney so desperate to have those documents destroyed before anyone could see them? Were these documents incriminating, perhaps implicating the governor and his staff in criminal activity? And if so, what illegal activity is Mitt Romney trying to hide? We'll probably never know, because the documents were destroyed. How can the voters of Massachusetts have any trust in their government after something like this?

    Here's an even simpler way of putting it: When you go to the polls, do you really want to be voting for the guy who had his staff shred thousands of public documents spanning a 4-year period in the dark of night? Is that the sort of thing that inspires your trust and confidence?

    December 6, 2011 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  3. Namejkane

    Romney, anybody that would vote for you would have to be a total idiot, and by the way, we want you to pay back the one billion defict you left us with in the state of mass after you left office. Stay in Nh please!!!

    December 6, 2011 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  4. roman duke

    the romnney guy is a crook.he on the otherhand is using his mammon cult to bewitch other candidates and make others stay away.america,we must be careful with romnney's over ambition.

    December 6, 2011 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  5. Belinda

    Romney is clearly hiding something . All we can pray for is that someone in his office does the right thing and talks about it. Maybe someone, will be willing to put a price tag on this information. Romney has made it clear, he will do anything, to keep the truth away from the American people. This guy thinks corporations are people too. That sounds like a direct quote from (ENRON ) Kenneth Lay, the man who destroyed the lives of thousands of people. Romney could care less about you. All he cares about is the bottom line, for corporations. He could care less about working families.

    December 6, 2011 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  6. Clwyd

    Republicans are all liars and cowards. Cain! bush is in hiding! Bachmann needs a straight jacket! Paul is in early Alzheimer's stages! Perry is having brain and memory loss! Newt is the frugal millionaire! Mitt is now a cover-up artist! Who is left of the original Loony Tunes 8?

    December 6, 2011 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  7. diridi

    I told you long time ago, all these GOP idiots are worst than Thieves....o.k,

    December 6, 2011 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  8. Larry L

    Great way to spend the taxpayer's money! Surely that's what people intended the state to do with their hard-earned dollars... I guess it didn't seem like much money to a man with 265 million dollars. You know... one of the "common folks"...

    December 6, 2011 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  9. Dixie AZ

    Mitt, it's your turn for an OOPS.

    December 6, 2011 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  10. Concerned

    This is a no story. Another attempt by Axelrod to dig up dirt where there isn't any. Sorry bub, Romney isn't dirty like the clowns you ran against in IL

    December 6, 2011 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  11. T'sah from Virginia

    Can't TRUST him .............NEXT!!!!

    Obama 2012

    December 6, 2011 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  12. Pedron

    Mitts is a sly flip- flop per politician!! he will go to the extreme of saying and doing anything to get elected but we the people say go Gingrich go Gingrich go Gingrich

    December 6, 2011 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  13. J.V.Hodgson

    Is it just me or does the fact that almost all the governors closest staff bought thier hard drives off thier computers.
    to me thats the smoke and the fire is on the disks!!
    As the article point out what happened here may not be illegal as such but it should be because they were all doing the business of state governance ostensibly of , for and by the people.
    Gosh any corporation I know makes you sign confidentiality AGREEMENT AND NO WAY MAY YOU TAKE AWAY CORPORATE PROPERTY or buy your hard disk or chuckle chuckle data which as a senior exec obviously contains vital corporate data.
    I betcha Bain his corprate has real tight rules on this subject, even the server got junked... now that makes the smoke cloud even thicker.
    Time to change the law on this matter.

    December 6, 2011 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  14. Mick

    Why won't Deval do the same from his 1st term? Because clearly, this is a Dem political stunt eagerly accommodated by the media. I'm a Massachusetts resident (& independent thank you), and I'd like to see more transparency in Deval's emails too. Will he be as forthcoming? He's already served one term, we should at least see those too. Especially with regard to the Big Dig fiasco, MADOT cost overruns and healthcare cost overruns currently eating into our paychecks.

    December 6, 2011 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  15. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Why was there a need to take the documents and hard drives from computers? I think that there was something that could have been incriminating. We won't know because Romney and his campaign left with the documents that were written during his term as governor.

    December 6, 2011 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  16. Former Republican, now an Independent

    A Romney or Gingrich administration would be as secretive and corrupt as the Bush administration was.

    December 6, 2011 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  17. Nash

    The one term governor is hiding something. If his administration was transparent why did they not keep records or at least hard drives?

    December 6, 2011 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  18. LegendRx

    Give up the docs already! It Romney refuse, he must be hiding something. Period!

    December 7, 2011 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  19. Rob Moray

    I find it interesting that Deval Patrick, of all people, chose to call Mitt Romney out. While he is willing to fork over records of Romney's alleged transgressions, he has time and time again wasted taxpayer money, in fact from the minute he began his first term as governor of Massachusetts.

    It is likely that people are simply looking for something that isn't there. Yes, Mitt Romney replaced his computers, and yes this did wipe out a lot of his data, but also note that he turned over more records "than any prior governor." If he had so much to hide, why was he willing to share more than anyone else?

    These allegations have been surfacing for some time now, but unlike the Cain allegations that eventually seemed to have some legitimacy, nothing about Romney's actions that people seem to find so scandalous seems to be getting any clearer. The fact of the matter is, Romney did not commit a crime, plain and simple.

    Let's get back to what politics is really about.

    December 7, 2011 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  20. Flabbergasted

    Regardless of whether it was legal or not, the question has to be asked: What is Romney hiding?

    December 7, 2011 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  21. steven harnack

    Since when is it "political dirty work" to respond truthfully to questions that were raised? What Romney did may be legal but it certainly isn't ethical. And guess who writes the laws that make their unethical actions legal?

    December 7, 2011 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  22. C57

    Oh my gosh!! A computer doesn't last more than 2 years before it needs updating. Deval Patrick should stop nit-picking and thank Romney for the new computers, sheesh!!! If this is all he can find to complain about he's trying too hard to discredit Romney. What kind of a name is Deval anyways?? Sounds a like the devil.

    December 7, 2011 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  23. Whatever

    And all this time I thought Romney was an Altar Boy.

    December 7, 2011 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  24. Pedron

    You can't find the historical records, because he stinked as a governor and now he thinks running away from the media is the real deal ?

    December 7, 2011 06:01 am at 6:01 am |
  25. john

    Bishop Romney.... Naughty, naughty.

    December 7, 2011 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
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