The long quest by journalists and a citizen activist for former Gov. Sarah Palin's official e-mails may reach its end by late spring.
Recently appointed Attorney General John Burns said in a letter Wednesday to the requesters that he will hold the office of Gov. Sean Parnell to the work plan it proposed in December. That would mean that thousands of e-mails would be released May 31.
The requests for the e-mails of Palin and her husband, Todd, a quasi-official advisor, were made shortly after Sen. John McCain’s stunning announcement that she would be his running mate in the 2008 presidential election.
Under the state’s public records law, the e-mails are considered releasable documents unless they contain private information or are exempt for other reasons. The attorney general can grant delays to another state agency if there are difficulties in obtaining or preparing public records for release, and the governor’s office has so far obtained 16 extensions.
In seeking the delays, the governor’s office has cited the huge volume of material -- 26,553 pages of e-mails -- and the need to review each one twice, once by a lawyer and once by an appointed official, to determine whether it is releasable in whole or in part.
After routinely approving delays, one of former Attorney General Dan Sullivan’s last acts in office on Nov. 30 was to direct the governor’s office to provide a specific date for completion of the reviews. Burns followed up with his letter affirming the schedule.
“Accordingly, I am granting the requested extension with the unequivocal expectation that all requested records that are not privileged will be provided no later than May 31, 2011,” Burns wrote.
One of the journalists, Bill Dedman of msnbc.com, noted in an on-line story today that if the e-mails are indeed delivered May 31, it would have taken 20 more days for him to obtain them than Palin herself served as governor. Some of the requesters have waited even longer.