Watchdog: DeVos used personal emails for work in 'limited' cases

Watchdog: DeVos used personal emails for work in 'limited' cases
© Stefani Reynolds

Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE used her personal email accounts for official business in “limited” cases, according to results of an internal investigation released on Monday.

In a report of its findings, the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said it surveyed DeVos and 51 other political appointees as of Nov. 9, 2017, “to determine whether the officials and the Secretary received the Department’s records management training and used their personal email and/or messaging accounts to conduct government business.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Across DeVos’s four known personal email addresses, investigators found “a limited number of emails” — fewer than 100 — that included government business and were sent or received between Jan. 20, 2017, and April 10, 2018, or the first few months of DeVos’s tenure, the report says.

“Most messages occurred during the first 6 months of 2017 and were from a single writer who was offering advice on potential candidates for Department positions,” reads the report, dated Thursday. “The Secretary reported that it was not her practice to conduct government business using personal email accounts, and where she was aware that emails on a personal account may have involved government business, she took steps to ensure that such communications were directed to the Department's email system.”

Among these messages, officials found six that were sent by DeVos to a department email address. Five of those had to do with to official business, according to the report.

The department bars all employees from using personal email to conduct official business unless their work accounts aren’t available. If they do use a personal address, they’re supposed to forward any relevant messages to their work emails within 20 days.

But her emails “were not always being properly preserved,” according to the OIG.

“We did not identify any instances where the secretary forwarded emails from her personal accounts to her department email accounts,” the report says.

In a statement to The Hill, Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said, "Media coverage of the IG report on personal email is the definition of click bait."

"I understand that 'DeVos + Personal Email' gets clicks, but receiving fewer than 100 emails and then forwarding them to senior staff to ensure they are captured on our government email server is hardly news," Hill said.

Because these emails weren’t always saved properly, the OIG report says, some were not included in the results of a public records request.

"In response to one FOIA request for email to and from any private email account controlled by the Secretary, we found that the Department did not identify or produce responsive email that we identified during our review. For another FOIA request, the Department did identify and produce email sent by the Secretary from her private account," the report reads.

The investigation comes after House Democrats in October 2017 — led by Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroTrump admin ending legal aid, English classes for migrant children in US shelters Brazilian firm draws scrutiny on Trump farm aid Watchdog: DeVos used personal emails for work in 'limited' cases MORE (Conn.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that reviews the department’s spending — requested that the office review officials' handling of personal email accounts, email preservation and responses to Freedom of Information Act requests.