The Arizona Attorney General’s Office had started a criminal investigation into allegations that former Secretary of State Michele Reagan and her staff deleted numerous emails before she left office.
On Thursday, two special agents are scheduled to meet with current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, and they are expected to talk about months’ worth of emails allegedly deleted by her predecessor.
The investigation starts after Hobbs, a Democrat who took office in January, wrote to the Attorney General’s Office on Feb. 14 stating some deleted emails.
“In the course of attempting to fulfill a public records request for emails from the previous Secretary of State administration, it has come to our attention that emails were deleted by the previous secretary and several executive staff prior to leaving office,” Hobbs wrote.
“Not sure if this should go to a criminal or civil division, but wanted to be sure to bring this to your attention.”
James Cope, supervising special agent in the Criminal Division, responded to Hobbs in an email Tuesday. He said the office is investigating into a possible violation of state law and requested to meet.
However, Reagan, a Republican, has denied doing anything wrong. She also added she’s spoken to her former executive staff and they’ve assured her nothing was inappropriately deleted.
“Nobody has any idea what Katie is talking about,” Reagan told The Arizona Republic. “I think this is just reckless and irresponsible for her even to allege something like that. What proof do they have?”
Reagan said she deleted emails from her inbox after she responded to them. And she also added that she was even unaware of how to permanently delete them from the office’s server.
This incident has been reported first earlier this week. Hobbs’ staff found the emails were missing after the Mirror submitted a public-records request.
As far as State law is concerned, an elected official who “without lawful authority destroys, mutilates, defaces, alters, falsifies, removes or secrets” a public record is guilty of a class four felony.
If convicted, the elected official may have to face one to 3.75 years in prison.
Upon inspection of public records that appear to show any emails Reagan sent or received before Jan. 7, the date Hobbs was sworn in, was deleted from her state account.
Hobbs’ spokeswoman, Murphy Hebert, said the office has done “a thorough search of archives” and couldn’t find the deleted emails.
As far as rules are concerned on for how long a public official must retain their emails, it is varied based on the content. Without knowing the content of Regan’s emails, it’s impossible to say how long they should have been kept.
Reagan has accused Hobbs of making allegations on political motive. She said Hobbs should “pick up the phone” and call her if there’s a records question.
Michele Reagan tweeted, “Reason number 982 why I’m glad to be out of politics. This is so beneath the new Sec of state she be embarrassed. This is so beneath the new Sec of state she be embarrassed.”
It should be noted that Reagan lost her re-election bid to Republican Steve Gaynor in last summer’s GOP primary. In the November elections, Hobbs, a former state senator, went on to defeat Gaynor.
However, Hobbs’ office declined to respond to Reagan’s comments.