Thursday, December 27, 2012

'Richard Windsor' Abandons EPA

Lisa Jackson's forthcoming departure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a major victory for transparency and accountability in Washington.

After years of whispers that EPA officials frequently used private email addresses, fake names and coded messages to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, Jackson admitted recently to using "Richard Windsor" as her chosen nom de plume on a government email account.

That was her choice because it reminded her of a much-beloved family pet, she claimed. (At least she didn't ask how anybody could suspect a puppy lover like her of any wrongdoing.) The EPA inspector general opened an investigation into the matter because it is against federal law to use nonofficial or secret email addresses to conduct official business.
I can see where having a "public" and a "working" email address would be a necessity for a high ranking official in any major agency.  Government e-mail addresses follow a simple naming scheme, and the "public" address would use that one.  It would attract endless missives, and probably would require a whole team of people to monitor, evaluate, and arrange for action on any that require anything more than a cut and paste reply.  It's really only a problem when you try to keep the account hidden from the legislative branch.

However, that said, the choice of 'Richard Windsor' from a dog named Dick seems kind of unusual.  Fortunately, there seems to be an alternative explanation:
Richard Windsor was a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) enforcement attorney who, in 1997, began working for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In an article announcing Windsor's new job staffing a PEER sponsored environmental hotline, he had this to say:
``Once upon a time, Florida [had] an environmental agency that tried to enforce environmental laws,'' Windsor said. ``That's not the case now.'' Windsor was an attorney in a court case in 2000 involving Florida's DEP. That same year, he corresponded with then EPA director Carol Browner. We know that because of footnote #39 on page 20 of a 2004 letter from Eric Huber of the Sierra Club addressed to Michael Leavitt of the EPA. We know that Richard L. Windsor was an attorney involved in a 2003 case involving Florida's DEP.
And, sadly, The Florida Bar News reported that Richard Lee Windsor shuffled off his mortal coil on December 7th, 2008. It turns out that the deceased environmental lawyer, Richard Windsor, worked with Carol Browner when Browner was head of Environmental Regulation in Florida. The article about the PEER sponsored environmental hotline notes: "Windsor and Medina worked for 11 years as state regulators." So, Windsor would've worked at DEP from 1986 to 1997 (roughly). Browner was Secretary of Environmental Regulation for Florida from 1991 to 1993.
The article goes on to speculate that 'Richard Windsor' was an email account set up by Carol Browner during the Clinton years for Richard Windsor, and that it continued to exist, and was picked up for use by Lisa Jackson as an account to use for surreptitious activities.

It will be amusing to find what kind of issues were discussed on the 'Richard Windsor' account.

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