Public employees can be held accountable for the contents of emails using a system paid for by tax dollars.
Never has this been more evident than with the scandal involving former Des Moines Schools Superintendent Nancy Sebring and the racy emails she sent on the job, which led to her eventual resignation as superintendent in Omaha.
The Marshalltown Community School District lets its employees know about its own policy on email and internet usage when they are hired.
"They sign an agreement that they will abide by district policy on internet use," said Marshalltown Superintendent Marvin Wade.
He said staff should not expect their emails to be confidential.
"We know that we are subject to the public records laws," Wade said.
When Marshalltown staff turn on their computers there is also a button they have to click which accepts an agreement to their usage policy. Wade said there were originally no plans to remind staff about the laws with the advent of this Sebring scandal, but said it might be a direction they take.
"That's probably a good idea," Wade said.
In the past few years, he said there have been a couple of violations on incorrect internet or email use and staff members have been reprimanded.
"We haven't had any highly insensitive issue," Wade said.
The Iowa Valley Community College District has been in the process of updating its polices on computer usage for its employees before the Sebring scandal hit. Jim Wilson, chief information officer with Iowa Valley, said they are updating a policy on responsible use of computer resources. He said it's been 10 years since some polices have been updated.
"I didn't do it because of this situation with Nancy Sebring, it was timely though," Wilson said.
One Iowa Valley employee policy updated this week includes the following language: "Keep email free of personal opinions and inappropriate commentary. Never create a message that you would not want to become public."
Contact Andrew Potter at 641-753-6611 or email@example.com