Jeb Bush has rebuked Hillary Rodham Clinton for her use of a private email account as secretary of state, holding up his own conduct as an example of transparency in government.
But it took Mr. Bush seven years after leaving office to comply fully with a Florida public records statute requiring him to turn over emails he sent and received as governor, according to records released Friday.
Mr. Bush delivered the latest batch of 25,000 emails in May 2014, seven and a half years after leaving the Statehouse and just as he started to contemplate a potential run for the White House, according to a newly disclosed letter written by his lawyer.
A Florida statute governing the preservation of public records requires elected officials, including the governor, to turn over records pertaining to official business “at the expiration of his or her term of office.”
“If they’ve been adding to it, it’s a technical violation of the law,” said Barbara A. Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group in Florida that advocates access to government information.
She added, “The law clearly says you’re supposed to turn everything over at the end of your term in office.”
Aides to Mr. Bush, an avid user of email, said they had provided many of his messages to his successor’s office as they were being reviewed for inclusion in the state archives, a process that dragged on for years because of the large volume.
“At the conclusion of Gov. Bush’s time in office, aides worked with the Executive Office of the Governor to continue to fulfill public records requests, as well as provide a full set of his official emails to the state for historical and archival purposes,” Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bush, said in a written statement.
Mr. Bush offered no detailed explanation on Friday for the seven-year delay in completing the search for his emails. Mr. Bush used a private email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, throughout his eight-year term as governor and encouraged constituents to write to him.
After it was revealed that Mrs. Clinton had relied exclusively on a private email account during her time as secretary of state, raising questions about her compliance with public records rules, Mr. Bush’s aides pointed gleefully to their handling of electronic correspondence as a model.
Mr. Bush, they recalled, had publicly advertised his personal email address and had promptly released tens of thousands of the emails to the public on a website.
“Transparency matters,” Mr. Bush wrote in a message on Twitter. Mrs. Clinton’s “emails should be released.”
The newly disclosed documents, made available after a request from The New York Times on Friday afternoon, suggest that Mr. Bush delivered his emails to state archives in several waves starting in 2007. New batches arrived in 2009, 2010 and 2011 as Mr. Bush and his aides reviewed whether they were subject to disclosure.
But in 2014, they discovered a new set of 25,000 emails, which represents about 9 percent of the 280,000 emails that he has turned over to the state from his private account. Until then, public records requests seeking emails to or from Mr. Bush would not have captured those messages, Ms. Petersen said.
In a letter explaining the delay, a lawyer for Mr. Bush, Raquel A. Rodriguez, wrote that the new messages were discovered when “we recently reviewed Gov. Bush’s records and came across some additional email messages that may be public records.” The letter did not elaborate on where or how the messages were found.
Ms. Petersen said she gave Mr. Bush credit for turning over emails as he found them but said the yearslong delay was curious.
“I can see how it might take six months or so, a year maybe, to locate all these records,” she said. “But we are talking, what now, seven years?”
Original article here.