Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner today submitted legislation to Council that enforces a zero tolerance policy for any and all misuse of County email, including obscene, sexually explicit, bigoted, racist, discriminatory or offensive messages and materials. It also encourages appropriate discipline if the policy is violated, while protecting employees who report related wrongdoing and waste. Council will receive the legislation at tonight’s meeting at 5 p.m.
“Sadly, we have seen abuse of emails at the highest levels of our government in Pennsylvania. If we fail to adopt best practices from those extreme cases of abuse, we are only setting the stage for such abuses to be repeated,” Wagner said. “Email makes communication easy, but is, therefore, also easily ripe for abuse. A clear email policy is a best practice in any operation, including government in the modern age, which is why my office adopted this in 2012, after I took office. We want to encourage the exchange of useful communication and be clear on what is not acceptable in the workplace, and believe this is a best practice that should be implemented countywide.”
Controller Wagner’s proposed legislation enhances and provides clarity to the use of email by staff, employees and officials. It defines guidelines for efficiently using government email to perform government work, and ensures that employees understand their responsibility to follow those rules and expectations accountably.
Wagner’s proposed resolution sets forth that there will be zero tolerance of misuse of Allegheny County resources by its employees and therefore prohibits:
·         sending defamatory, obscene, profane, sexually oriented or threatening messages and material, or abusive or racially, ethnically, religiously or otherwise discriminatory or offensive messages and material;
·         engaging in personal business dealings for profit or commercial gain, solicitation, political campaigning, gambling, celebrity or sports news and gossip sharing.
The need for a defined zero-tolerance policy, and for employees to understand that they are responsible for adhering to that policy, has recently come to light in the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the private sector, at Sony Pictures, where employees participated in sending messages that included inappropriate and offensive materials.  Misuse of County email was identified in the Controller’s Office when Wagner took over the office in January of 2012. 
Wagner is the first female to serve as Allegheny County Controller, and has implemented numerous workplace policies as part of her efforts to modernize the Office of Controller and County government in general.  In September of 2014, Wagner’s office became the first in regional government to implement paid maternity, paternity and emergency leave for the 90 employees in the Controller’s Office.