When Public Officials Use Their Personal Email Address

09 Jun
June 9, 2010

Public officials need to be careful when using their personal email addresses for anything that looks like official business.  Not only can it violate state Freedom of Information Act laws, but their mail can lead to problems.

Our tale begins when Escondido, California resident Tom Albergo wrote to high school district trustee Jon Petersen and the other trustees about the district’s plans to build
a magnet high school  near his home. Albergo expressed concern about a planned soccer field at the school, saying that other schools with fields have created problems for neighborhoods, such as criminal activity and public urination, the North County Times reports.

Here is the problem:

  • Jon Petersen uses his cox.net personal email address for school district email
  • Albergo put his name and email address in this mail.
  • Unfortunately, he misspelled Petersen as Peterson.
  • There is also a Jon Peterson with a cox.net personal email address, but he lives in Arizona
  • Peterson, the Arizona man, must have decided to have fun with the mix-up, when he wrote back:

“Unfortunately, we are on a tight budget, and we don’t feel that a little noise and inconvenience will warrant the layout of that kind of money.”

“It will pretty much have to be live and let live, and the devil be damned, as they say in my hood!”

In response to Albergo’s concerns about public urination, Peterson wrote: “It is really difficult to understand how there would be a problem with a little natural fertilizer now and again.”

Albergo, who did not realize the mix-up, was outraged at the response and complained to the Superintendent of Schools.

Fortunately, the matter was quickly cleared up.  But, perhaps Petersen ought to use his official euhsd.k12.ca.us email address.


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