Okla. AG's office confirms Pruitt used private email for state business

This email, obtained by FOX 25 through an Open Records Act request, shows the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office redacting an email address for former Attorney General Scott Pruitt that does not match his official government email address. (KOKH/Phil Cross)

OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) - The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office confirms former Attorney General Scott Pruitt used a private email for state business. The information comes a week after FOX 25 first revealed the emails that appeared to be sent from Pruitt’s private email account.

FOX 25 requested answers about Pruitt’s private email use and whether that account was searched for records in accordance with state law. It took one week for the office to return our multiple calls and emails and confirm it did search the account.

A spokesman for the agency, Lincoln Ferguson, said that attorneys within the office conducted the search of Pruitt’s private, personal email account and did not find any documents that had not been captured in the search of official Oklahoma attorney general accounts.

Open government advocate and media professor Dr. Joey Senat said the state law regarding open records indicates that private accounts cannot be used to shield government officials from transparency laws. Senat said one of the weaknesses of Oklahoma’s law on open records relies on trusting public officials that they have conducted appropriate searches of private accounts.

It is not illegal to use a private email account for state business, as long as those records are included in searches for public documents.

However, the revelation is in direct conflict with Pruitt’s written and oral testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee during the confirmation process. Pruitt, who is now the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, told lawmakers he had never used private email for state business.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., asked Pruitt directly, “Have you ever conducted business using your personal email accounts, nonofficial Oklahoma attorney general email accounts, text messages, instant messenger, voicemails, or any other medium?”

“I use only my official OAG [Office of the Attorney General] email address and government-issued phone to conduct official business,” Pruitt replied.

Pruitt’s former office is still facing a legal challenge over open records from the Center for Media and Democracy. The AG’s office was ordered to turn over thousands of records that had been withheld for more than two years. The AG’s office is now appealing that ruling as it seeks to keep more records from public release, claiming they are exempt from release under exemptions to the Open Records Act.

Pruitt promised members of the Senate EPW Committee that as EPA administrator he would only use official government email to conduct the business of the agency. It is against federal law to use private email for official business.

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