Report: no illegal data destruction at Commerce Dept.

A state investigation has found no evidence to back up the allegation of a former Department of Commerce employee about illegal document destruction.

Former Commerce department deputy commissioner Timothy Vande Hey claimed in a 2016 lawsuit that he was ordered by another official, Deputy Commissioner Anne O’Connor, to destroy department documents. His lawsuit against the department was later withdrawn.

Investigators from the Office of the Legislative Auditor reviewed the matter, at the request of a state lawmakers, and could not substantiate the allegation. However, they noted in a new report released Friday that Vande Hey, who is no longer a state employee, did not cooperate. They were unable to determine key details about the directive and the documents referenced in the lawsuit.

Legislative Auditor James Nobles said O’Connor and the department cooperated fully with the review and presented plausible explanations.

“People have to remember that it is not illegal for state agencies to destroy documents. In fact, there is a legal process laid out in law by which that can be done,” Nobles said. “It may well be that they did destroy documents, but they didn’t violate the law.”

In addition, Vande Hey’s lawsuit alleged the department was not responding properly to data requests from the public. Nobles said his office concluded that responses to public data requests appeared to be reasonable.

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