The Oregonian is seeking a court order blocking Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer from destroying emails relating to the occupation by a Bundy-led militia group of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Palmer has come under fire over allegations that he sided with the Bundy group to the point that law enforcement colleagues felt they couldn't trust him. In January, Palmer said the government should appease the occupiers by releasing two ranchers accused of burning federal property. One of the refuge occupiers, LaVoy Finicum, was shot and killed by police after running a checkpoint, saying he was on his way to meet with Palmer.
According to the paper, Palmer "systematically" destroys all the emails he sends and receives in his capacity as sheriff. He also uses a private email account to communicate in his professional capacity as sheriff.
"I don't know of any other public official in Oregon who routinely destroys public records," Charles Hinkle, an attorney specializing in media law, told the Oregonian. "Sheriff Palmer apparently deletes every email that he sends or receives on on the email address that is posted on the sheriff office's website. He is apparently continuing to do so even after receiving a public records request for them."
A judge will hear the newspaper's case on Tuesday and decide whether to grant a temporary restraining order blocking Palmer from destroying emails. He is currently under investigation -- and has lost his certification -- over complaints filed with the state agency that licenses police officers.
The Oregonian has been trying for months, even filing a lawsuit, to obtain public records from the sheriff about the occupation that include emails. The Oregonian reports it is a misdemeanor to destroy public records, such as emails. Officials are generally allowed to destroy records after one year.