Thursday 2 June 2016

Email snooping...policy 'amended', three years later - updated

Update 14th June; In the final draft of the email protocol which is before the Exec Board on Monday June 20th the authorisation for tracking councillors emails has been extended to include 'and/or the chief executive', so in fact the monitoring officer can be by-passed completely. What possessed the Scrutiny committee to suggest this is beyond me. I think we're back to square one.


Readers may recall that back in 2013 it transpired that Cllr Caiach's emails had been snooped upon by the chief executive. The incident had occurred in 2011 and related to the libel case, Cllr Caiach then went on to act as a witness against Mr James and the council during the trial.
She was unaware that her emails had been tracked until mid-2013.

It was never established if this snooping was habitual and/or ranged further afield. Concerns from opposition councillors were raised in full council in 2013, but, true to form, these were swiftly and sourly silenced with the chief executive claiming that the 'snoop' had been on the order of the High Court, this was entirely wrong and highly misleading. After successfully kicking the subject into the long grass, it resurfaced at a scrutiny meeting in March 2014.

The 'review of the email usage and monitoring policy' found even longer grass this time and languished in the meadow for over two years.
The 'amended' policy finally reappears on the agenda for next week's Policy and Resources Scrutiny Committee.

Much of the policy is standard stuff but a section has now been added which states that if a councillor's email is to be snooped, tracked or monitored in some way, presumably covertly, any request must be 'signed off' by the Monitoring Officer who is then supposed to 'inform' the Standards Committee.

In an ideal world, and for future generations, this may provide some sort of balance against abuse, but at the moment, with the toxic culture of Carmarthenshire Council's top brass alive and well, it's not worth the paper it's written on.


Anonymous said...

"Snooping" was carried out routinely and widely in Stalin's Russia, Hitler's
Nazi Germany, the present North Korea - and now in Carmarthenshire County Council? Are we really surprised by this - after all, this council seems to be run as a dictatorship - and I'll leave you, dear reader, to guess who the dictator is!

Sian Caiach said...

Considering that the original employee policy says that employee's emails can be monitored but they must be told about it personally, this is ludicrous. This simply makes the situation farcical in that the standards committee are informed but ? not part of the decision.

Although, after I found out, I was informed that my email were monitored as an employee, despite the position that Councillors as a body are supposed to be employers, the monitoring officer clearly forgot to inform me then.

As the emails monitored concerned my correspondence with the chief executive I can only assume that Mark James requested that the IT security officer monitor who I had copied in. No explanation has ever been forthcoming as to why the CEO wanted to track my emails but I do believe that it is unlikely that anyone else wanted to check where my comments on Mr James' rant on the Madaxeman blog may have been forwarded too. Every other CC Councillor was copied in, as it happened.

Perhaps the P&R committee could let us know what they recommend the new reasons for monitoring Councillors emails should be? I believe there is legislation which dictates these matters. I have no funds to chase anyone through the courts on my case but some other Councillors and/or their political parties probably can if the P&R committee approve this policy without checking its legitimacy and it's applied illegally to some other elected member.They,members of the committee, not the monitoring officer or anyone else would be responsible. Surely they wouldn't fall for it?

Anonymous said...

Go the slow way and use "snail-mail" by external post (Royal Mail) write and sealed in your own home and posted away from County Hall. May be old-fashioned, more expensive personally (but you can afford it out of your expenses and allowances) and slower - but guaranteed to beat the official and unofficial spies, snoopers and other low-life of The Kremlin - sorry! County Hall.

Martin Milan said...

The other option you have is to use encrypted mail, or of course for matters not concerned with constituents you might Be able to use your own private email...

Sian Caiach said...

I do use my personal email for most things but despite me asking that my details on the council website should include my personal email address this hasn't yet happened although perhaps i should pursue it again. One should never put in email something you absolutely would be embarrassed about if read but my main concern is about constituents contacting me on an email address I know is insecure. I'm sure they are unaware of the issue of Council officers possibly accessing the correspondence. I do put out newsletters and personal business cards with my private email address but I still do get the occasional contact via Carms CC website. Its irritating but the other Councillors are generally unconcerned so far. Interesting to see if the committee members go with the flow?