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The Pub Test: Should a councillor block emails to their council email address on a Council laptop

It appears that Councillor James Thomson has decided to BLOCK various members of the community including The Beagle from officially emailing him on Council issues. The Beagle provides links to all councillors on articles that they might find of interest around specific Council issues. Members of the public (who have advised the Beagle that they are also blocked) also write to councillors raising issues of concern. The Pub Test question is: Should a Councillor BLOCK incoming email from the media and ratepayers on a council supplied laptop into an official council provided email account? Are not all incoming emails to an official council email address considered as formal correspondence? Following Council's decision to rearrange Public Access and to half the opportunity for the community to present issues directly to councilors the General Manager justified the action by saying "It is also proposed that Public Access not occur. By way of background, Public Access was developed to enable the community to connect with Councillors. Since its implementation, the way we communicate has evolved and Councillors are now more connected with their community. Councillors can be contacted via email or mobile with all contact details published on Council’s website" In light of the recent witchhunt that saw all the councillors placed under a veil of suspicion to determine if any of them leaked information to the media there has been a reaction by some councillors to no longer trust using council supplied email, laptops and phones knowing they can be recalled and trawled as was the recent action carried out by Council staff. For whatever reason Councillor Thomson has now decided to block specific emails (this has been tested) from The Beagle. This is of concern as Clr Thomson is on the following Committees:


Disability Inclusion Advisory Committee, Eurobodalla Heritage Advisory Committee, Public Art Advisory Committee (Alternate), Floodplain Management Association of NSW, Southern Tablelands and South Coast Noxious Weeds Plan Committee, Gulaga National Park Board of Management.


In blocking any incoming emails from the Beagle Mr Thomson has indicated, by his actions, that he does not wish to be asked for any opinion on any council related matters nor matters of these committees.


Is he allowed to block incoming emails to an official Council email address knowing that these communications (if allowed) are formal communications with Council and to him as a community representative? Under the Model Code of Conduct for Councillors :

Council record keeping 8.21

You must comply with the requirements of the State Records Act 1998 and the council’s records management policy.


8.22 All information created, sent and received in your official capacity is a council record and must be managed in accordance with the requirements of the State Records Act 1998 and the council’s approved records management policies and practices.


8.23 All information stored in either soft or hard copy on council supplied resources (including technology devices and email accounts) is deemed to be related to the business of the council and will be treated as council records, regardless of whether the original intention was to create the information for personal purposes.


8.24 You must not destroy, alter, or dispose of council information or records, unless authorised to do so. If you need to alter or dispose of council information or records, you must do so in consultation with the council’s records manager and comply with the requirements of the State Records Act 1998.  


Knowingly BLOCKING incoming correspondence from a ratepayer or media company so that it can NOT become evidence of correspondence under the State Records Act 1998 (or as part of an investigation) is not a smart move at all and, in our opinion a breach and worthy of a Code of Conduct.


As Councillor Thomson appears to have knowingly blocked incoming correspondence from The Beagle and others in the community he may well have also deleted previous outgoing correspondences from his official councillor email address that he may wish to see destroyed.


Irrespective of whether an email is deleted on a Council owned laptop all emails sent to The Beagle and others from an official councillor email address, blocked or not, is still on record and recoverable, both on Council's own mail-server and in recipient archives.

Above: Clr Thomson appears unaware that when you block an email address the recipient receives a message like this. As an explanation the 550 Envelope blocked - User Entry states:


COMMENTS : Due to the risks associated with comments from unidentified contributors that expose The Beagle to possible legal actions under the NSW Defamation Act 2005 No 77 anonymous or Nom de Plume comments will not be available unless the author is known to the editor by way of a verified email address or by association.

Others who provide their REAL NAME (first name AND Surname) and a verifiable email address (it won't be published) are invited to comment below. (yes it is a pain but please comply - it would be a  shame to see your comment deleted)

Those contributors KNOWN to us and verified may continue to use their First Name or Nom de plume for ease. The primary need for all of this is due to traceability should a legal action arise.

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