May 14, 2012

Tom Barrett's wife did what?

Emails from Barrett's wife violated MPS policy

Or so announces a current Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel headline.

The story claims — without substantive basis: it's not explained how the Milwaukee Public Schools reached the determination memorialized in the headline — that Kris Barrett, wife of Milwaukee mayor and candidate for Wisconsin governor Tom Barrett, violated the MPS ethics guidelines against specific politically-related activities using the MPS email system.

Follow the paper's link to right-wing creeps Media Trackers' website (like Hell I'll link to it) and compare the content of Ms. Barrett's emails with the proscribed activities. None of the emails are "contribut[ions]" either in "financial resources" or "donate[d] services," nor do any of the emails contain attachments of "political or campaign materials." Not a one.

What a crock. If it really is the case that Ms. Barrett was found in violation of MPS guidelines, and those are the proffered emails and the allegedly relevant proscriptions, then Ms. Barrett should contest that finding. Any halfway competent litigator could easily knock it down.

Or any halfway competent reader of English, for that matter.

And the reporting, by Sharif Durhams, is textbook gullible. Just awful.

It's really sad what's going on up there in your great State these days.


Alex said...

Agreed that is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

But color me unimpressed that people who probably ought to know better are sending political e-mails from their work address, public OR private sector. How hard is it to get a Gmail account?

illusory tenant said...

Even so, these are salary positions. I'm sure you'd never see the smarmy dissemblers at Media Trackers logging MPS teachers' hours spent outside the office prepping for classes and grading schoolwork. Moreover given the self-righteous bleatings of conservative Republicans over First Amendment protections for political speech -- which they tell us give their State Supreme Court justices the right to lie -- they should be defending Ms. Barrett.

Display Name said...

There are plenty of private-sector workers violating their company's acceptable-use policies during the work day, too. I'm still waiting to read a conservative's essay on the strict interpretation of private-sector AUPs when it comes to work-day blogging. Malum prohibitum or malum in se? Is it stealing if the boss doesn't catch you? Is it not stealing from the stockholders if your immediate supervisor overlooks your violation of the AUP? If this is how the Bidness is routinely run, then why get so upset when Gummint is run like a Bidness?

I doubt even the money-bag-toting ever-powerful union thugs want to allow public employees free reign with politicking on public email systems. On the other hand, it's not hard to find employees who cheerfully violate the AUP of their employer. I believe I once prodded Prof. Shh 'n Shh to admit he was violating the (private) Marquette University AUP on a regular basis. People think they're special. Whatever they can get away with is the exception to the rule. It's always someone else who is more egregious in their behavior. "My usage is incidental," he seemed to say, even though he did it routinely and it clearly violated the AUP. Of course, I'm sure he'd be quite capable of arguing that the AUP contradicted the principles of academic freedom applied to adjunct professors, especially when it comes to actions that let him further the agenda of his political patrons and idols.

Alex raises the notion of Gmail as a way to hide email. As you see in Media Tracker's excerpt, the MPS AUP describes the allowed and prohibited uses of their network and computers in more general terms. You're not supposed to use the resources for anything that's not related to the job of education. AUPs are rarely written as clearly (‽) as statutes, so we are left to speculate what they meant by "political or campaign materials." Is it saying "Walker sucks" to a friend? Similarly, to get some perspective on this situation outside of Media Tracker's hyperbole, we'd need to examine how the MPS has actually interpreted and enforced these specific violations in the past. Media Tracker's article asserts that her emails were a violation of the MPS Employee Code of Ethics. They ask us to believe that these three emails are somehow a "political donation." The reporter also uses the phrase "gross misuse of resources." Three emails? "Gross" as in big?

Wisconsin's open records law tells us it doesn't matter where a record is created. It's about the content. If it was government business, it's open. This is why we may someday read Team Walker's secret emails even if they resided on non-governmental computers. If you requested an email sent by a public employee, and the records custodian conducting the balancing test decided that it was a personal email, they might justifiably withhold it or redact it. There is at least one interesting case (again involving teachers) where emails were requested in an apparent attempt to judge just how much personal email was actually happening.

Look on the bright side. At least the Journal described Media Trackers as "a suburban Milwaukee conservative group that regularly researches and releases unflattering claims about Democrats."

Jeff Simpson said...

When teachers "work to contract" then the right also has a coniption fit. So they demand that teachers work numerous hours aweek for free and you better not ever say a bad word about us or else all hell will break loose.

The only exception of course is it would be perfectly acceptable to make an "its working" ad for the Walker Campaign.