BISMARCK, N.D (KXNET)— North Dakota State Senator Tracy Potter and North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley engaged in a sometimes heated exchange Thursday, regarding the deletion of late Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s email account, as well as that of former Deputy Attorney General Troy Seibel.

“Where did your agency get the authority to ignore the state statute?” asked Potter.  “Our agency is not ignoring anything,” said Wrigley. 

In a letter addressed to Wrigley, Potter stated, “Century Code statute 54-46-08 provides a process for final disposition of any type or class of record. It would require you, as agency head, and again as Attorney General, to join with the state auditor and state archivist in determining that a type or class of record ‘has no further administrative, legal, or fiscal value.'”

In the discussion with Attorney General Wrigley, Potter said, “The deletion of a personal email is one thing. Deletion of any official government activity, any communications related to fiscal, administrative, policy issues, that’s a whole different issue. Plus, the archivist has another rule. He has to look at stuff to find out if there’s historic record and you’d have to agree that Wayne Stenehjem’s historic record is valuable.”

“You will not find a person more disadvantaged by that deletion than me,” responded Wrigley.

In a joint news conference with North Dakota State Senator Joan Heckaman, Potter said the records belong to North Dakotans and should have never been destroyed.

What many are calling for and what Wrigley has pledged in light of the deletion, is a written retention record for the North Dakota Office of the Attorney General going forward.

“We’re going to have a written policy, but we’re creating one right now. Because I didn’t inherit one and we’re putting one in place,” said Wrigley.

KX News has placed an open records request for emails exchanged regarding this issue since it came to light, including emails from Liz Brocker, the employee responsible for ordering the deletion of the email accounts. We are waiting for those records to be produced by the Office of the North Dakota Attorney General.