The tale of the tapes 

A vocal critic of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said there are tape backups of some of the computer hard drives Huckabee had crushed at the end of his term in order to keep the information stored there from the public and the press — and he has documentation that seems to prove it.

As you'll remember, in early January 2007, as his tenure as governor ran out, Huckabee ordered his staff to electronically wipe and then crush the hard drives of almost 100 laptop and desktop computers in the governor's office (soon after taking office, incoming governor Mike Beebe had to allocate $335,000 from his operating fund to buy new hard drives and computers to replace those crushed by his successor). At the time, Huckabee said that the decision to crush the hard drives was made in order to protect the privacy of those who had personal information on the drives. Critics, however, recalled that early in Huckabee's term as governor, documents, e-mails and memos stored on hard drives just like the ones that were destroyed formed the basis of embarrassing stories about Huckabee, including a 1998 story in the Arkansas Times detailing how Huckabee and his family were using the $60,000-a-year Governor's Mansion fund as their personal piggy bank. As revealed in documents provided to the Times by a former governor's office employee, the Huckabee family had used the mansion fund — which was supposed to be used only for purchases related to official state business — to buy everything from pantyhose and dog houses to meals out and loaves of Velveeta cheese.

Jim Parsons is a political rabble-rouser from Bella Vista (if you want proof that he isn't just another partisan hit man working for the Democrats, check out his new book, “Hillary and Other Bullies,” which he said will be out soon). In July, after two complaints he submitted to the state Ethics Commission over the crushed hard drives were dismissed, Parsons filed a civil lawsuit against Huckabee, even though new attorney general Dustin McDaniel had refused to file criminal charges in the case. Though Huckabee's lawyers asked a judge to dismiss Parsons' lawsuit in late August, as of this writing it is still pending.

One of the more interesting documents that Parsons has found while researching his lawsuit is a memo from Arkansas Department of Information Systems chief technology officer Gary Underwood to then-governor Huckabee. In the memo, dated January 9, 2007, Underwood states that the hard drives in question have been crushed. No news there. More interesting, however, are the bulleted notes just below that item, in which Underwood writes that tape backups of the governor's office network drives “have been delivered to a designee of your office,” and that “a mirror image of the network drives has been created, and the mirror drives have been delivered to a designee of your office.” At the bottom, the memo is signed by Huckabee chief of staff Brenda Turner, who lists herself as the designee of the office of governor Mike Huckabee. According to Parsons, his calls to DIS have found that the last anyone saw of the backup tapes, Turner was putting them into the trunk of her car and driving away.

Call me crazy or technologically illiterate, but that sure sounds like electronic copies of at least part of the crushed Huckabee information trove exist somewhere in the world. As with all things Huck, however, getting at that information is easier said than done. Parsons said that his attempts to get access to the tapes or the information they contain via the state Freedom of Information Act have so far been unsuccessful. Ditto on my attempts to contact either Turner or Huckabee about those backups. If or when Parsons' lawsuit over the crushed drives reaches the level of subpoena and deposition, however, the tape backups and Brenda Turner's recollection of what became of them will surely be high on his list of must-haves. Stay tuned. The awful truth may out yet.

I am not a crook…

david@arktimes

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