Thursday, August 09, 2007

Private use of public email

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR) reports that a couple of state employees mistakenly tried to 'recycle' their excess prescriptions. Rightly that activity is being questioned. I'll let the legal experts determine if the activity itself is illegal. I believe when the prescription is paid for with public dollars you have absolutely no business retaining the proceeds of passing them on. It's possible to donate these things to local clinics. That might have been a smarter plan.

But to pull back a bit this recent revelation highlights an ongoing problem with private use of public email services. It's my understanding that state and Metro e-mail accounts are specifically for official business. If it's not related to your job---you shouldn't be using taxpayer dollars to host the correspondence let alone take work time to conduct the correspondence. Private phone calls at work used to be forbidden in a lot of places and folks understood that the boss wasn't paying you to chat up your friends. Now days we've got public employees using their government email accounts for activities that are not a part of their job. In a couple of instances I can recall public employees actually using their accounts to fight against the very system they work for. The SSA battle is a current example.

Web based e-mail accounts are a dime a dozen now days and no government employee has to use their government account to conduct private business. It's also flat foolish to do so in that these messages are archived and not at all private. This TCPR revelation being a perfect example. That careless use of government resources could cost way more than expected.

And if you're corresponding with someone using government email---keep in mind your words could also be a part of the public records.

UPDATE: Sarah Moore weighs in from a teacher's perspective.

When I began my employment with the school system that hired me, we were told that our email accounts were to be used for professional reasons only (correspondence with parents, planning with other teachers, subscribing to daily updates from E! Online, etc). I used my school email account for its intended purpose and maintained great communication with parents about upcoming exams, the distribution of grades and other tidbits that the students did not want mom and dad to know. However, ...Read the rest at her blog.


julieanno said...

Get a government job with an email account. Better yet, get a JOB. Don't criticize what you don't know or don't live! There are many times any given email account must be used for other uses.
UNTIL you have BEEN there and DONE that then hush!
Must be nice to stay at home and criticize others. The rest of us are out there making a minimial living to buy SSA!

Kay Brooks said...

So if the email rule says for official business only, how do you justify 'must be used for other uses'?

Why isn't a personal edress a legitimate option?

Nashteach said...

Why isn't a personal edress a legitimate option?

We aren't supposed to use our computers for anything for MNPS business, so using a personal email account on an mnps machine during the school day would also be a violation of policy. And it certainly shouldn't be abused, but on rare occasions we do have to take care of family things during the school day- for example communicating with our child's school or teacher. Is there really a difference between our using an mnps phone (and playing phone tag, making secreatries transfer or take messages) or an mnps computer?

As I said, it should be a rare instance, but I tell ya, I give up plenty of my family time to take students to chess tournaments, sell tickets at games, chaperone dances, attend pencil partner socials, not to mention grade papers into the evening, etc. If mnps policy doesn't allow me an occasional five minutes and an electronic means of contacting someone caring for my child during the school day, then I need to find a more family friendly employer. They aren't unreasonable about the policy though.

I tell ya, I have never had an opening of the school year where the media spent our first days on such negative notes. Nineteen teachers transferred seems more important than the other 5981+, many of whom have been in school buildings (with broken AC units)long before payroll started, being berated for an occasional personal email. I got a 3% raise (thank you) and 10-15% more students (did anyone notice MNPS increased class sizes this year?) Test scores are back, and guess what? We're essentially on probabtion.

So nineteen teachers are reportedly ineffective, and some teachers (although you really provided no specific examples, Kay) are violating email policy. And everybody's all over it. We are all berated for what a few do, and NO ONE sticks up for us when our leaders stick more students in our classes. It's like you all can make a better school system without us. Good luck with that. Apologies for the tone- and I'd say more but I have to go see if I can find more desks for my classroom.

Kay Brooks said...

I didn't provide specific examples, you're right. But it's not just teachers. I've seen posts from government employees that violate the policy.

I understand that there will be the occasionally emergency situation. But to use a government account to actively fight against government policy seems out of line. And then Sarah's post specifically mentioned all the fluff forwards that 'professional educators' were passing around. Nothing emergency about any of that. The use I've seen is way more than five minutes to take care of a family situation.

These folks have a right as citizens to work for change in the system but they really should be doing it on their dime...not the taxpayers.

I hadn't heard that class sizes were increased. No one likes getting more work for the same pay.

I wasn't bothered by the tone. I know it's a stressful time with a lot to be done. I hope you found the desks.