Robert Bentley defends use of private email account

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Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley told reporters Thursday his use of a nonstate private email account, as reported by AL.com, is subject to public records requests, defending the practice.

“Why use a private email account for public business and, if you did, shouldn’t those be a public record?” a reporter asked the 2-term governor, who has recently come under investigation and possible impeachment for an alleged affair with his former senior adviser Rebekah Mason.

Bentley has maintained he did nothing wrong throughout the relationship, and has said he will cooperate diligently to clear his name.

The question came during a brief time with media after a military appreciation luncheon on Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery.

“They are a public record and, in fact, whoever wrote the article does not know how to ask for the material. If they would ask for it properly they could get the material,” Bentley answered.

“All of that is public record. All they have to do is go and ask the person who either sent the email that’s public or received an email from me, and they can get it. That’s public record.

“Nothing is being hidden. Everything is open. All they have to do is access it properly.”

The governor’s response is a continuation of the administration’s historical stance on the use of unofficial emails, saying if it is with another state employee it is captured on their official account, which is subject to public record.

“The Governor’s Office takes its archival responsibility seriously — both from a legacy perspective and a legal perspective,” said Bentley’s director of communications Jennifer Ardis. “As files are closed and matters concluded, these are archived on a rolling basis in accordance with the Governor’s Office Records Retention and Archiving Policy.”

AL.com’s original investigation into the governor’s use of personal email accounts to conduct state business, including alleging emails between Bentley and Mason, resulted in what amounted to a closed door, with the governor’s office saying, “This request is not subject to the Alabama Open Records Act to the extent the request is for email communications conducted on personal accounts.”

But for investigative reporters fishing for communications between Bentley and Mason, this too could present a problem, as Mason hasn’t been a state employee since 2014.

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