Open records request nets more than 50 email violations in three weeks
By Gail Peckler-Dziki
A second open records request from Kenosha County Republican Party Chairman Matt Augustine has uncovered more than 50 emails sent between Kenosha County employees on county time or from county resources who are members of Local 990.
Augustine asked for “any communications received by or sent to Mary Jonker’s county email address, including but not limited to, any emails (sent, forwarded, received and deleted files), that are political or campaign-oriented using Kenosha County property and/or while on Kenosha County property and/or written during Kenosha County work hours beginning Feb. 9, 2011 through March 8.”
The majority of emails were sent to Local 990 members from Jonker, a child support and enforcement specialist for Kenosha County and chairman of the Kenosha County Democrat Party.
Between these documented dates, Jonker sent out 31 emails to members of Local 990, Peter Drummond and Nick Kasmer from the union. Ten emails were sent from Jonker’s computer between 12:39 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 14, in preparation for a bus trip to Madison to protest Act 10, the legislation that changed items on the table for public union bargaining.
When Act 10 became law, public union could bargain collectively only for wages, with the exception of police and firefighters.
Topics of the other emails ranged from union meeting information to organizing protests at City of Kenosha Council and Kenosha County board meetings. Also a list of businesses that supported Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign was included in an email.
Kathy Fliess, president of Local 990, sent the next highest number of emails while on county tie, with six.
Topics of emails she sent ranged from information about the 2011 budget deficit bill to praising the Democrat state senators who fled the state to avoid voting on new legislation in February, to organizing rallies at the City of Kenosha and Kenosha County Board meetings. She also emailed about organizing a group to meet Scott Walker’s plane when it landed at Mitchell Airport on Feb. 25.
About 14 other county employees, some from the district attorney’s office, also participated in email chains regarding these issues.
Kenosha County work rules and policies for county-owned electronics communications, policy sections 7 and 8 states, “The county’s electronic systems may not be used to solicit or promote commercial ventures, religious or political causes, outside organizations or any other non-job-related solicitations.
“The electronic communications systems are not to be used to create any defamatory…or otherwise offensive or disruptive messages or to access any information that is not required during the normal course of business. Electronic communications which are considered offensive include, but are not limited to, any messages which contain …comments that offensively address someone’s…religious or political beliefs.”
Work rules-work habits 9 reads, “Employees shall not use electronic communications or recording devices, including but not limited to, voice or visual imaging devices, whether personal or County property, in the work environment without prior written supervisory authorization (open meetings are excluded).”
Another section says, “Employees and union officers shall not conduct personal or union business, solicit funds, or distribute literature during work hours without prior supervisory approval.”
Application of these rules and policies must be done in the light of Section 4.2 of the Local 990 clerical agreement that reads, “Communication of Union Business. Union member/officers may utilize electronic mail and/or facsimile equipment for communication of union business with the understanding that e-mail will not be used to create a group for the entire membership. Union should also keep in mind there is no privacy related to these emails.”
Kenosha County personnel director Bob Reidl said that there is no clear-cut line that separates union business from political business. “We don’t have a clear definition of either, so we proceed with caution.”
Kenosha County has 10 bargaining units. They are Deputy Sheriff’s Association; Local 70, Highway Department; Local 168, Maintenance and Custodial Workers; Local 990, Jail Staff; Local 990, Courthouse and Social Services Clerical; Local 990, Social Work Professional (in Brookside, Aging, DSS); Local 1392, Institutions Employees; Local 2430, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Local 5061, Kenosha County Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals; Local 1090, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO Kenosha County Park Commission and Local 451, Wisconsin Professional Police Association Civilian Employee Relations Division (WPPA/CERD).
Three union contracts expired when Act 10 became law in August. Two more expired on Dec. 31. Three expire in 2012, and one in 2013. Act 10 did not affect police and firefighter unions.