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'Delete! Delete! Delete! Now': County commissioner's text to delete emails backfires with calls for her to resign

Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press on

Published in News & Features

DETROIT -- First, it was Democrats who unleashed turmoil across Oakland County's political scene for their allegedly unseemly and unethical rush to fill the county executive seat of the late L. Brooks Patterson.

This week, it's a Republican drawing a charge of unethical dealing. Calls were growing for the resignation of Oakland County Commissioner Shelley Goodman Taub, a veteran Republican from Bloomfield Township, after Taub admitted to WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) that she'd sent a text to her commission colleagues that said "Delete! Delete! Delete! Now."

The point of her text was to urge Taub's colleagues on the county board to erase their recent emails. That can be a criminal act if such deletions involve key categories of government correspondence, according to legal experts.

Taub's goal evidently was to cover up messages by other commissioners on the 21-member county board as they considered backroom deals to choose a successor to Patterson. Taub's text also said awkwardly, "You are about to receive FOA's" -- her way of saying that media and others were likely to submit requests to see the emails under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act, commonly abbreviated as FOIAs.

Deleting emails and otherwise destroying records of government activity so as to avoid FOIA requests is a violation of various state laws, according to legal experts.

A liberal advocacy group -- Progress Michigan -- called for Taub's resignation, saying Taub had been "trying to hide public documents from the people of Oakland County, who deserve real accountability from their elected officials."

 

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner -- a Democrat who months before Patterson's death announced his intention to run for the office in 2020, and who strongly objected last week to the backroom rush to appoint his chief rival David Woodward, a Royal Oak Democrat -- said he, too, felt Taub should resign.

"That strikes me as a sensible action, although I don't believe it should preclude a possible criminal investigation" of Taub, Meisner said.

"The subject of her text was urging people to get rid of evidence around the ... appointment. I just worry that this just casts a broader shadow over the entire process of democratically electing the next county executive. Her statement of criminal intent right on television is something you rarely see," Meisner said.

Taub on Monday said she had no intention of resigning.

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