Aiden Hill’s introduction to the secretive culture at Covered California came in his first days on the job. He had just been hired to head up the agency’s $120 million call center effort when he emailed a superior April 18, 2013, and got a text message in reply:
Please refrain from writing a lot of draft contract language in government email … And don’t clarify via email … No email.
Later, concerned about contractor performance, Hill conducted an Internet search for “best practices” information to forward a superior. Afterward he got this text:
Aiden—Please stop using government email for your searches.
Hill saw the text messages as a deliberate effort to avoid a paper trail subject to public disclosure. And he says some higher-ups grew increasingly upset by his efforts to flag alleged incompetence and waste.