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Deleted emails of late North Dakota AG, deputy unable to be recovered

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Capitol in frost

Frost blankets the state Capitol grounds in Bismarck.

Deleted email accounts of North Dakota's late attorney general and his deputy are not able to be recovered.

New Attorney General Drew Wrigley told the Tribune on Tuesday that a consultant's effort failed to retrieve the deleted state government email accounts of his predecessor Wayne Stenehjem and former Chief Deputy Attorney General Troy Seibel.

"The bottom line is they have affirmed what we know to be true, or what we were told was true before, which was that it doesn't exist anymore, it can't be resurrected," Wrigley said.

The consultant's report concludes: "There is no form of these mailboxes ... that can be recovered in any form."

The state Information Technology Department this fall had tapped Microsoft consultant service Planet Technologies to attempt to retrieve the deleted email accounts, costing no more than $9,240. The final cost wasn't immediately clear.

Stenehjem spokeswoman Liz Brocker directed the deletion of both accounts, including Stenehjem's just days after he died Jan. 28 due to cardiac arrest.

"We want to make sure no one has an opportunity to make an Open Record request for his emails, especially as he kept EVERYTHING. This was approved by Troy," Brocker wrote on Jan. 29 to the office's information technology/criminal justice information services director.

She resigned in July, days after the deletions came to light from a Tribune records request. 

Wrigley's office discovered the deletions weeks after he disclosed a $1.8 million building cost overrun incurred under Stenehjem. 

Wrigley last month referred an investigation into the overrun to Montana's Division of Criminal Investigation at the request of North Dakota lawmakers. He didn't have an update Tuesday on the probe. 

State Rep. Jason Dockter, R-Bismarck, is a co-owner of Stealth Properties LLC, which owns the building at 1720 Burlington Drive in south Bismarck. 

Dockter, who also was campaign treasurer to Stenehjem, has disputed a critical investigative report into the overrun by the state auditor, saying he had nothing to do with billing or day-to-day operations, and that he and business partner C.J. Schorsch "feel we didn't do anything wrong from top to bottom" in the project.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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