Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Wednesday that she will join the secretary of state’s investigation into thousands of emails deleted by a top aide to Mayor Thomas Menino, raising the pressure on City Hall.
Coakley’s involvement, which comes a day after aide Michael Kineavy said he plans to take an unpaid leave of absence, could potentially render prosecution if enough evidence is found, according to reports. The investigation takes place during the height of the mayoral race and has so far recovered more than 5,000 emails deleted from Kineavy’s computer.
‘My office will continue to work with Secretary [of State William] Galvin going forward, and we remain prepared to conduct a full investigation and take all necessary steps to guarantee the preservation of evidence and full compliance with the law,’ Coakley said in the press release.
Menino spokesman Nick Martin said Menino and his team would not allow the email investigation to change how they approach the race.
‘We’re not going to let it distract us from what we need to do to have a good finish,’ he said.
Martin said it was ‘premature’ to say what effect Kineavy’s absence will have on the campaign, but he expects he may remain involved.
‘The mayor definitely values [Kineavy] as somebody that’s worked hard in the neighborhoods to bring together people,’ Martin said. ‘He’s given his time on a volunteer basis in the past to help out with campaigns.’
However, Natasha Perez, City Councilor-At-Large and mayoral candidate Michel Flaherty’s spokeswoman, said a cover-up is ‘more than likely.’ She said she expects investigators will discover ‘tortious interference,’ which in this case would entail intentional destruction of documents.
The scandal’s juxtaposition to the race only serves to highlight problems that run deep in the Menino administration, she said. Flaherty dubbed deletions ’emailgate’ in a Twitter post Tuesday.
‘Hopefully the voters are actually having a good look at what’s been going on for 16 years,’ she said.
The Boston Globe initially revealed that Kineavy had been deleting his emails from city servers after they made a series of public record requests. In a new development, The Globe reported Oct. 6 that Kineavy replaced his computer shortly after receiving the newspaper’s requests for the emails.
According to The Globe’s timeline of events, an April request for the correspondence of eight City Hall employees, including Kineavy, yielded 23 emails, none of which were from the requested period.
They then amended the request in June to cover all of Kineavy’s emails from Oct. 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009. Though the city supposedly backs up all documents and correspondence to the main server daily, there were only 18 emails available from Kineavy’s files during the requested time period.
After initially claiming it was plausible that Kineavy had only sent 18 emails over the course of the six-month period, the city officials eventually said Kineavy had in fact been ‘double-deleting’ emails from the computer’s recycle bin, so the server could not back them up.’
Following this discovery, Galvin ordered the city on Sept. 14 to hire an independent investigator to retrieve the lost emails from city computers.
The emails offer a glimpse into daily communication in the Mayor’s office.
One set of emails from early March 2009 contains jokes for a St. Patrick’s Day comedy roast poking fun at Menino’s political circle, as well as election opponents, Flaherty and City-Councilor-At-Large Sam Yoon, who is now running as Flaherty’s deputy mayor.
Kineavy’s email to his colleagues in response to the jokes said, ‘reminder’hellip;even though we are joking’hellip;these are foiable [sic],’ referring to the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA.
Another email from James Hunt, Boston’s chief of environmental and energy services, copied the text of an email from Valerie Burns, president of the Boston Natural Area Network, detailing a dramatic shouting match she had had with Menino and her concerns about their professional relationship.
Hunt’s email, headed with ‘CONFIDENTIAL FYI (for your eyes only),’ said ‘TMM [Thomas M. Menino] blew up Valarie [sic] Burns today . . . She can be tough, but she has been a stalwart for TMM . . . I will work to restore the relationship, but this one will take some time.’
Galvin expressed frustration with the city’s level of compliance in the investigation, saying they had not been ‘responsive,’ according to The Globe.
Perez said Coakley’s involvement could bring a new perspective to the investigation in addition to the city-hired firm currently working on the case.
‘There still needs to be an independent investigation,’ she said. ‘Hopefully there will be a clean and independent set of eyes on this.’