The Taneytown City Council on Monday discussed Councilman Donald Frazier’s improper use of his government email account after city officials’ review of his account revealed that he shared a confidential message and used the address to register for a dating website.
City staff searched Frazier’s city-issued email account after the Carroll County Times filed a public information act request asking to be provided with all emails sent from and received or deleted by the councilman’s government account since his taking office in 2015.
While reviewing Frazier’s emails to redact privileged information, City Attorney Jay Gullo noticed “anomalies in the email use that seemed that they needed to be reported to the Mayor [James McCarron] because it violated the town’s IT policy,” he said Monday.
McCarron, upon being notified of the improper use, wrote a letter to Frazier Jan. 10 detailing how the councilman erred and ordering him to stop immediately.
“It has become apparent that despite prior warnings, you have again violated the city’s attorney/client privilege by forwarding certain emails marked ‘Attorney/Client Privilege’ to your spouse, Robin Frazier,” McCarron wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Times through a separate Public Information request.
Frazier told his colleagues and the public Monday that he “doesn’t like [Microsoft] Office 365” because he can’t navigate it efficiently and that he always forwards messages to his personal account “for storage.” Frazier sent the privileged email to his wife, he said, so that she could print it for him.
“That definitely needs to be avoided in the future,” Councilman Bradley Wantz told Frazier.
Frazier said he’d never seen the email notifications from OurTime.com — a dating website for men and women over 50 — that littered his account.
“I didn’t respond to any of them,” Frazier added. “They’re all received junk mail, they’re spam mail, and I don’t know why it’s on my email. But I delete everything on my email every time I log in. I keep a very clean email.”
Taneytown’s Information Technologies Policy Manual, in a section that outlines the responsibilities of those issued a city email address, says that government accounts “shall be used for business communications only.”
The manual also implores city staff and elected officials to notify the IT department if they received any questionable, or spam, emails. It appears Frazier did not notify IT staff of the notification emails from OurTime, despite his calling them spam.
Frazier also said the city should have denied the Times’ Public Information Act request. “When you all were elected, I told you this could happen,” Gullo told Frazier in response. “I told you, ‘Your emails are public information and therefore if there is a request made they must be disclosed unless there is a reason or exemption.’ ”
Some emails were redacted from the public information act request from the Times citing attorney-client privilege.
The IT manual also explains that users “shall not have a right to privacy when using City email for electronic communications, even if those communications are of a personal nature.”
Frazier, later in the meeting, again denied violating attorney client privilege.
“What I got today was pages and pages of stuff, and I could not possibly have gone to work today and finished reviewing all that,” Frazier said. “But I have completed the review by this evening’s meeting, and this is all junk mail and I never responded to any of it.”