Clipboard: Medical board members asked state officials to look into missing e-mails

Members of the board that licenses and disciplines doctors asked state officials to determine whether its former executive director violated public records law, after they found e-mails he wrote over several years were missing.

I reported in today’s Boston Globe that the board had asked the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to look into the matter weeks ago, and Vice Chairman Dr. Gerald Healy sent a letter himself to the attorney general’s office.

Alec Loftus, spokesman for the Patrick administration, said late Wednesday that analysts had recovered former board director Dr. Stancel Riley’s e-mails from a server.

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“Further review by IT could not determine that any e-mails had been purposefully deleted,” he wrote in an e-mail. He declined to answer questions about exactly how the e-mails were found and why they were missing to start.

Riley left the office under pressure in December. Everyone on the seven-member board, which had been seen as too lenient, had been replaced or left in the prior 18 months.

The Globe filed a request in January for copies of Riley’s e-mails that are considered public documents. To date, none of those records have been released.

Here’s more about how the board members came to be concerned:

Soon after Riley’s departure from the board, interim Executive Director Barbara Piselli obtained permission from state administrators to gain access to his computer and to determine whether there was any board business in his e-mail or calendar that needed her attention. She found the calendar to be mostly empty, and e-mails exchanged before late November were missing, she said.

After discussing the matter with board members, Piselli notified the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and technology specialists recovered Riley’s archived e-mails. But board members asked for clarification about whether the possible deletion of information from Riley’s computer indicated a violation.

“We just wanted to be transparent,” said the chairwoman, Dr. Candace Sloane, who noted that it was not clear how the e-mails went missing.

When the executive office had not answered the board’s question by March 1, despite requests, Dr. Gerald Healy, vice chairman of the medical board and emeritus surgeon in chief at Boston Children’s Hospital, sent his own letter to Attorney General Martha Coakley raising the issue.

“I said to my colleagues [on the board], I’m not comfortable with sitting back and waiting for someone at the State House to respond to e-mail, because we have a concern here, and we need to report this and go on record with another agency,” he said. “I don’t want to unfairly accuse people of doing something they didn’t do or they didn’t intend to do . . . but my job is supposedly to license and discipline doctors and not worry about this stuff.”

On Wednesday, the attorney general’s office forwarded Healy’s letter to the state supervisor of records, who typically reviews such matters.