WASHINGTON D.C. – An email exchange between newly-elected Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and lawyers for the City of St. Paul revealed that Perez used his personal email account for official business during his tenure as an attorney in the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2012 according to the Associated Press. The use of a personal email account to hide official business from public scrutiny is a violation of the Federal Records Act.
In a letter to Perez, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), then-Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform said it appeared that Perez used his personal email account almost 1,200 times between 2009 and 2013 for official business.
In this letter, Issa wrote to Perez, “It appears that your use of your personal, non-official email account to conduct official department business has been frequent and routine.”
According to the Washington Examiner, Issa received a letter from Peter J. Kadzik, the Justice Department’s principal deputy assistant attorney, who conceded that Perez had committed at least 34 violations of the Federal Records Act. Issa had issued a subpoena for the 1,200 e-mails, however, Perez ignored the subpoena, according to the Wall Street Journal.
US News reports Perez, in his capacity as the nation’s top civil rights enforcer, persuaded St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to withdraw the City of St. Paul’s appeal in Magner v Gallagher before it could be heard by the Supreme Court. According to a House Oversight report, Perez feared that in this suit, the Court would find disparate impact theory – the lynchpin of civil rights enforcement – unsupported by the text of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). In exchange, the DOJ declined to join two whistleblower lawsuits against St. Paul that could have returned as much as $200 million dollars in damages to the federal government. It was this matter that launched the investigation into Perez’s emails.
Perez’s emails were subpoenaed by the Oversight Committee after investigators obtained an email Perez sent to lawyers for St. Paul using his personal account. In a March 22, 2013 interview with congressional investigators, Perez was questioned if he conducted official business from his personal email account. He said, “I don’t have any recollection of having communicated via personal email on this matter.”
By withdrawing its appeal in Magner v Gallagher from the Supreme Court, the City of St. Paul relinquished an opportunity to protect low income residents from landlords who failed to maintain safe housing standards.
Alpha News MN reached out to Mayor Coleman’s office, but did not receive a response at publication time. Coleman announced his candidacy for Governor of Minnesota on December 13, 2016.
After the questionable St. Paul deal was made, Perez was confirmed as Labor Secretary under the Obama administration in 2013 despite his decision to ignore the Congressional subpoena regarding his emails. Most recently, Perez was elected as DNC Chairman, defeating Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN5) for party leader in February 2017. Since his election as DNC chairman, Perez has not been asked by the media about the St. Paul deal, his emails or the Congressional subpoena he ignored.
For the past several weeks, Democrats and the media have hounded Republican Vice President Mike Pence over his use of a personal email account during his tenure as Governor of Indiana, in an attempt to label Pence as a hypocrite for his criticism of Hillary Clinton’s use of an unsecured private email server. Pence said there is no comparison between himself and Clinton as he used a commercial AOL account and not a private server, and he was not handling classified information over his personal email account.