For Eight Months, Congresswoman Val Hoyle Has Not Produced Public Records Held on Her Personal Devices to the State Agency She Once Ran

Her successor’s administration asked for the records twice. Hoyle says she never saw the inquiries.

Val Hoyle (Courtesy Val Hoyle)

U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle (D-Ore.) has failed for eight months to provide the Oregon office she once ran with state-related communications kept on her personal devices.

As the state’s elected labor commissioner, Hoyle oversaw the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries for four years, leaving after winning a seat in Congress, which she assumed Jan. 7. Twice in the days prior to her swearing-in, a records custodian from BOLI wrote emails to Hoyle, asking for her to produce all state-related communications on her personal devices that were generated during Hoyle’s time as BOLI commissioner.

Hoyle, for her part, says she never saw the inquiry.

BOLI’s records custodian, Kelsey Dietrick, wrote to Hoyle asking for those records that would not be captured in state record databases because they were conducted on Hoyle’s personal devices.

“It would be ideal for you to produce all of your text messages that relate to BOLI business from your personal device(s) as this keeps us consistent with our precedent of retaining all communications and promotes transparency,” Dietrick wrote Jan. 6. “I would highly recommend conducting a due diligence search of your personal email accounts.”

BOLI says that, to date, it has not heard back from Hoyle.

Such a request when a state agency changes hands is not routine, says the state’s archivist, Stephanie Clark.

“It’s not customary, in my experience, to ask the outgoing administration for all public records held on personal devices,” says Clark, “because elected officials are informed through training and policy that personal devices should not be used to conduct public business.…An outgoing administration would presumably know that if they did use a personal device at any point during their administration to conduct public business, those records would have needed to be captured and retained within state agency environments well before the end of the administration.”

That would suggest that BOLI’s incoming leadership had reason to believe Hoyle did use personal devices to conduct state matters. In response to that question, Dietrick said that for a time during Hoyle’s tenure overseeing BOLI, she listed her cellphone number—not her agency-issued phone number—in her email signature.

According to records previously provided to WW by the current BOLI administration, Hoyle used her personal phone on occasion to discuss official state matters, including an apprenticeship program that would grant a $554,000 grant last fall to a brand-new nonprofit co-founded by one of Hoyle’s top campaign contributors. (Hoyle’s successor, Christina Stephenson, revoked the grant in the spring after WW wrote about the nonprofit’s co-founder, Rosa Cazares, and her troubled cannabis outfit.)

Hoyle spokeswoman Marissa Sandgren says there is “no record of that request we can find in Rep. Hoyle’s personal email,” even though Sandgren confirms that the email address BOLI sent the request to on Jan. 6 was, indeed, Hoyle’s personal email address.

As for the request made Dec. 30 to Hoyle’s BOLI email address, Sandgren says, Hoyle “was in the process of moving to D.C. that weekend” and adds that the weekend following was a holiday. “She wouldn’t be checking BOLI emails, and lost access to that account when she stepped down on [Jan. 2],” Sandgren says.

Sandgren says Hoyle will produce the records for BOLI.

Timeline of BOLI’s Seeking Val Hoyle’s State-Related Communications on Her Personal Devices

Dec. 30, 2022: Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries records custodian Kelsey Dietrick emails Hoyle at her BOLI address, asking for all communications related to her work for the bureau.

Jan. 6, 2023: Dietrick emails Hoyle at her personal email address, repeating the request.

Jan. 7, 2023: Hoyle is sworn in to her seat in Congress.

Aug. 29, 2023: As of press deadline, Hoyle had not provided the requested materials.

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