Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock is facing criticism in his reelection bid over recent reports that every email from his time as the state's attorney general has been deleted.
Bullock served as Montana's attorney general from 2009 to 2013 and was required by law to retain certain records relating to his duties in that position.
Republican legislators have referenced parts of the state's code and constitution that deal with public records requirements in their criticism of Bullock's actions. Article II Section 9 of the Montana Constitution states:
No person shall be deprived of the right to examine documents or to observe the deliberations of all public bodies or agencies of state government and its subdivisions, except in cases in which the demand of individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure.
Bullock's deletion of emails became an issue after Yellowstone Club founder Tim Blixseth submitted an open records request for emails pertaining to Bullock's tenure as attorney general. When it became apparent that Bullock had disposed of these emails, Montana Republicans asked the new attorney general, Tim Fox, to investigate why Bullock deleted all of them.
The attorney general's office said it could not investigate whether the emails should have been saved because they do not know their content since they were deleted.
"We cannot say which of Attorney General Bullock's and his executive staff's email messages and attachments were required to be retained for how long," Chief Deputy Attorney General Alan Joscelyn said to officials requesting an investigation. "Only Governor Bullock and his former Department of Justice staff would know when or why they failed to retain any email messages or attachments."
Joscelyn also detailed how general correspondence must be retained for at least three years and public records relating to civil legal cases should be kept for two years at the department and in storage for three more. He noted that Bullock did not hand over any records to Fox during their transition but had some discretion in which documents he could turn over.
Businessman Greg Gianforte, Bullock's Republican opponent, and other allied groups have tried to connect Bullock's deletion of emails to the practices that Hillary Clinton employed with her emails while she was secretary of state.
"We've seen a clear pattern with career politician Steve Bullock, he thinks he is above the law. He was busted using a state-owned airplane to fly with his Commerce Director to a Paul McCartney concert and campaign fundraisers," Aaron Flint, communications director for Gianforte, said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.
"Now it has been confirmed that he destroyed every single one of his emails from his tenure as attorney general, and has shown no indication of changing this lawless behavior. With this type of corruption, it's no wonder he endorsed Hillary for president," Flint added.