Greg Abbott released his office’s first batch of emails Tuesday afternoon to refute reports that he used his personal account to create an account on behalf of the state’s construction firms.
In the first batch released Tuesday, Abbott’s deputy chief of staff, Jennifer Haskins, told reporters she “was not involved” in any emails she was tasked with reviewing from the Texas Department of Construction.
She said in a statement the state “never requested or requested for any personal information to be provided to the governor” and that the records had been “considered by the appropriate state officials and contractors.”
“It is disappointing that some have falsely claimed to have received the records from the Governor’s office,” she said.
Haskins said the records “are the result of an audit by the State’s Auditor General.”
The emails released by the Abbott administration were obtained through a public records request.
They were sent to members of the governor’s staff who are required to keep them confidential, including Haskin, her deputy chief, and deputy chief counsel.
The Texas Department for Public Safety also released a portion of the emails, which show Abbott’s staffers had been instructed not to respond to the request.
The state’s inspector general, which oversees the department, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Abbott, who was inaugurated in January, is seeking re-election in 2018 and has a tough re-elect battle ahead of him.
The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors.
A few hours after Abbott released the first email, the governor sent a second email to his staff.
In it, he said that “while I appreciate the need to make these emails public, I am not using my personal email address to send out or receive emails.
I have not received any emails from the Secretary of State’s Office regarding the release of the Governor-to-be emails.”
The governor did not provide a reason for the delay.
The records released Tuesday were obtained after Abbott’s office received a Freedom of Information Act request.
A spokesman for Abbott told the Tribune that the governor had “no involvement with the construction firms” and the state was not responsible for their work.
Abbot said in the email that he “received many emails from them in the last several weeks, including one from one of their subcontractors that was addressed to me,” the Texas Tribune reported.
He also said he was not involved in the creation of the account, and that he was “not aware of the existence of any emails” sent from the account.
In a second message to his office, Abbott said that the emails were “not meant to be used to communicate any official government position,” the Tribune reported, and added that he is “not a state employee.”
A spokesperson for the Texas State Attorney General’s Office did not return a call seeking comment on the emails.
Hinkins told the newspaper that Abbott “did not contact me in an official capacity about any emails.”
She added that the state had “never sought or requested any personal or sensitive information for any governor’s or governor’s campaign communications.”
The Texas Department on Monday released a series of emails it said were related to the creation and use of the accounts, including a Juneau construction firm, Dmaxrynos construction company and Osmo construction company.
The department said it had not received an official request for the emails from Abbott’s administration.
The department said in an email to the Tribune it had been in contact with the Abbott office and “will continue to work with them to determine the full scope of the issues raised.”
In response to the emails released Tuesday by Abbott’s team, Haskings told reporters “it was not appropriate to send or receive any email about the construction companies.
The communications were not meant to communicate official government positions, nor were they meant to contact any specific individual.”
Abbott’s spokesman told the Texas Democrat-Gazette that Haskons had “repeatedly misled the public” about the nature of the correspondence and that she “has been repeatedly mischaracterized in the media.”
“While the governor and his staff were unaware of the use of personal email, he did not contact the construction workers to request their personal information for the governor,” the spokesman said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.