Is the Pennsylvania Education Department Deleting Public Data?

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has been cleansing its computer system of emails, in what could be a violation of its own policy.

by / August 12, 2014

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has been deleting email on a daily basis, and the practice could land some officials in hot water.

Acting state Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq admitted in a television interview that the Pennsylvania Department of Education only released five emails in the past year for Ron Tomalis, special adviser on higher education to Gov. Tom Corbett, because a majority of it is deleted each night, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Post-Gazette reported that the department’s practice violates its policy on record retention. The policy states “transitory records” -- emails and documents of a personal nature, of little value, or not about state business – can be eliminated. But documents noting agency activity or current general operations and procedures need to be retained for varying lengths of time.

The emails from Tomalis were requested by the Post-Gazette through a Right-To-Know request, but all of them appeared “transitory” in nature. The paper requested the records in an investigation of Tomalis’ activities in his new position. Tomalis has previously been state education secretary and was still being paid his $139,542 per year salary as a special adviser.

The Post-Gazette reported that in addition to the five emails it received, phone logs and expense reports have not shown conclusive evidence that Tomalis has traveled to colleges and universities in Pennsylvania during the past year. Some lawmakers have asked Corbett to seek Tomalis’ resignation due to a lack of evidence that Tomalis is doing his job.

-- Brian Heaton