The entry below is cross-posted from County Councillor Sian Caiach's People First website;
Saturday 1st June 2013
Covert Surveillance of People First Councillor
Like all Carmarthenshire County Councillors I was routinely issued with a council laptop and email address on being elected. The purpose appeared to be so I could use it for communications related my council work. However, it is now clear to me that anything I wrote , received or sent from this account could be and some were, accessed by council officers without informing me or the other recipients whose privacy was deliberately violated.
A couple of weeks ago I was shown a document which Carmarthenshire County Council had released under a document search to someone else. The “Attendance Note Form” showed that the Council's IT security officer, had read and logged my emails in September 2011. The “name of client” was blank.
In many councils the elected members “run the show” and as an opposition councillor, I should, if this was the case, suspect one of my senior elected colleagues in the ruling group of instructing an officer to snoop on me. However, Carmarthenshire appears to be an officer run council. Senior elected councillors with titles and extra salaries, which in other authorities indicate decision making power, show little sign of actually being in charge.
And what is the email so serious that it has to be monitored by the administration? Some of you will remember that our Chief Executive Officer, Mark James CBE, posted a statement on a blog criticising another blogger's attempts to get our major council meetings filmed. After this he emailed the same statement to all councillors. I replied to him, disagreeing with his statement.
Someone in 2011 had to find out who had received copies of my negative reply.
The answer was I copied my reply to Mr James to quite a lot of people, all of my fellow councillors, an assembly member, a local town councillor and the blogger herself. Who was so desperate to know that, that they invaded my privacy without giving me notice or reason?
Although I have submitted a Data Protection Act request to find out how often and by whom my council emails are read and monitored by my supposed employees, the Carmarthenshire local government civil servants there is as yet no reply. The report form applies only to one email but I would be surprised if it were the only email monitored and also if I was the only Carmarthenshire councillor snooped on.Councillor Sian Caiach, People First
(An earlier post from December 2011 on this blog concerns the 'Access to email' policy, however, as well as being ambiguous to say the least, it doesn't specify councillors emails, which may contain highly sensitive information from their constituents).
Also of interest, from August 2012; Ombudsman dismisses Chief Executive's complaints against Cllr Caiach; http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/ombudsman-tells-council-boss-comments-2025772
My post here; http://carmarthenplanning.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/chief-executives-complaints-to.html
UPDATED; The Western Mail has picked up the story here, Councillor complains to Information Commissioner after local authority accesses her email