N.C. State University told prosecutors on June 24 that it can’t locate high-priority eMail messages from former Chancellor James Oblinger, raising questions about the university’s response to public-records requests in the digital era, reports the News & Observer of Raleigh. The loss of the eMail, covering the period in 2005 when Oblinger helped create a job for former first lady Mary Easley, was revealed in documents the university gave to federal prosecutors. In July 2008 and again in February, the News & Observer had requested all documents related to the creation of Easley’s job and her hiring. Interim Chancellor James Woodward said the reason the Oblinger messages were deleted was technical, not an attempt at concealment. "I believe the deletions were routine business," Woodward said. "At that time, in 2005 and 2004, most organizations had no concept of the role eMailing would play in today’s world. There were simply not rational policies for how one maintained eMails." Oblinger had two eMail accounts: One accessible to any member of his staff, and the other he used exclusively for high-priority correspondence. After lawyers for N.C. State discovered that six months of Oblinger’s high-priority eMail was missing, they instructed the university’s technology staff to reconstruct the missing records. A substantial number of messages were recovered, but periods remain for which the staff has been unable to recover anything…

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