Greg Smith said in a deposition late last year that he wasn’t sure how to delete text messages and that other people were allowed to delete messages from his phone.
Smith, the director of the Malheur County Economic Development Department from 2013 until July 2022, acted as project manager for the Treasure Valley Reload Center from 2017 until last February.
In December, he was deposed for a lawsuit filed by the Malheur Enterprise to enforce the state’s public records law. Smith took the lead role in handling the newspaper’s requests for public records from the economic development department and its development arm, the Malheur County Development Corp.
One element of the lawsuit dealt with allegations that Smith had illegally deleted text messages that were public records. Here are excerpts from his sworn testimony relating to text messages and cellphones, in response to questioning by Dan Norris, attorney for the Enterprise.
Q. My question is, did you continue to delete them?
A. I delete e-mails.
Q. Knowing that they could be public records?
A. Not if I don’t retain them.
Q. Have you ever received a text message from Grant Kitamura [MCDC president] in the last –in that period of time?
A. I could assume but I don’t recall.
Q. What would you have done with that text message?
A. Read it.
Q. And then what?
A. Deleted it.
Q. So you don’t retain them. Tell me what you do with the text messages?
A. Read them.
Q. And then what becomes of them?
A. Unless they have value they are deleted.
Q. What steps do you have to go through to delete a text message from your phone?
A. I’m not very sophisticated on operating these fancy devices so I don’t know.
Q. Well, who deletes them for you?
A. I do. But I don’t recall how to share it step by step with you.
Q. And how long does it take you to delete the text messages?
A. Boy, I have never timed myself.
Q. Do you ever retain any of them?
Q. And what do you do with the ones you retain?
A. Do not delete them.
Q. Okay. And where do they go? Where do you save them at?
A. Again, I don’t know how that fancy stuff works on my phone. I just know it is in there.
Q. Are there text messages relating to the public’s business on your phone right now?
A. You know, I don’t have my phone with me so I don’t recall.
Q. Do you have other people delete your text messages for you?
A. If someone deleted them, I would not know that.
Q. Are they authorized to do so?
A. Most definitely.
Q. And who are these people?
A. I’m not sure I can give you a name.
County, MCDC settle Enterprise lawsuit over records, promising more transparency
HOW TO SUBSCRIBE – The Malheur Enterprise delivers quality local journalism – fair and accurate. You can read it any hour, any day with a digital subscription. Read it on your phone, your Tablet, your home computer. Click subscribe – $7.50 a month.