BY CAROLINE VAKIL – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and his administration were found to be using a messaging app that deletes messages after 24 hours, keeping his internal communications with staff members private and out of the state archives.
Messages from the end-to-end encryption app Wickr obtained by The Washington Post show Hogan talking about a wide range of topics, including the state’s response to the pandemic, coordinating with staffers and complaining about media. Chat rooms used by Hogan were set to a timer called “Burn-on-Read” which deletes the messages after 24 hours, the Post reported, citing records.
Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci told the Post the governor uses the app to “have political and communications conversations with advisers, many of whom do not work for the state.” But the Post’s reporting shows state employees who responded to Hogan’s messages include his chief of staff and communications director.
In one instance, Hogan complained to staffers about acknowledging that 500,000 tests he had ordered from South Korea in the spring of 2020 needed replacing due to flaws.
“Stop talking about 1,000 f—ing tests!!!! Read what I say. Tests are unlimited,” Hogan wrote in a message obtained by the Post.
The Post in November made a public records request for chatroom listings and messages from the governor and about two dozen of his staffers to confirm the use of Wickr and asked each individual to take “urgent and immediate” steps to preserve the records.
The governor’s office then provided screenshots of the messages. While it did not deem the records as public, it provided them “in the interest of transparency,” according to one of Hogan’s government lawyers.
Hogan declined to be interviewed by the Post about his use of the app.
Maryland law requires that each level of state government retain its records on a schedule. The automatic deletion of messages by Hogan and members of his administration means it can never be determined whether the communications can be made public or be kept by the archives once he leaves office.
Hogan, who will finish his second term in 2022, has touted transparency, writing in a 2020 memoir that if “you are transparent and let people know what’s happening, give them the straight facts, they will stand beside you through thick and thin.”
Maryland law requires that each level of state government retain its records on a schedule. The automatic deletion of messages by Hogan and members of his administration means it can never be determined whether the communications can be made public or be kept by the archives once he leaves office. This is not fair to the rule of law given the governor has looked away from public corruption which has been ongoing in Prince George’s county, Maryland for more than 10 years.