Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto has introduced a bill that would limit how supervisors gain access to emails sent by city employees. Currently, city workers are given a warning every time they log on to check their mail that their emails may be read by a third party. However, it does not say who can read the email and under what circumstances. Peduto’s legislation would put a governing policy in place that would force a supervisor to make a request through the city solicitor’s office before reading a subordinate’s email. The councilman says he wanted to make sure email searchers were not being done for political reasons. Peduto fears managers could go on, “Fishing trips… to find a reason to then create problems for their employee.” After an investigation is complete the employee would have to be notified that their email was read. Peduto says this should not give city employees a sense that the computers are their personal property but it does give them some protections.
All emails sent by city employees and elected officials using government property are subject to right to know requests unless they fall under a long list of stipulations intended to protect personnel matters, contract negotiations and investigations. A search of an elected officials email must be first approved by the chair of the ethic hearing board and then the solicitor. If the request involves the solicitor it then goes to the mayor or approval.