STOCKBRIDGE — Mayor Lee Stuart is at odds with city leaders for reportedly trying to gain secret access to employee e-mail accounts.
The mayor admitted he recently attempted to monitor the e-mails of five current Stockbridge employees — Treasurer David Milliron, City Clerk Nicol Vasquez, Deputy City Treasurer Annette Anderson and City Court Clerk Anita Gunnoe — as well as former City Administrator Ray Gibson.
Stuart said he suspected his own city e-mail account was being monitored, as well, but he did not say by whom.
“I wanted to see if they [those he wanted to monitor] are the ones monitoring my e-mails,” said Stuart. “I had complaints from city employees that their e-mails are being monitored. In any e-mails that I sent to city employees, they would get questioned by Gibson [when he was employed earlier this year] about e-mails I would send them.”
Stockbridge has an information technology contract with Total Tech Group, of Buford, Ga., to oversee the city government’s IT services. Stuart said the agreement calls for one point of contact to make changes to those services.
That point of contact was former City Clerk Vanessa Holiday, until she was ousted in January. Stuart said Gibson then appointed himself as the new point of contact with the Total Tech Group.
“Before we could get it changed, he gets canned,” said Stuart. [Henry County Superior Court Judge Wade Crumbley recently deemed that the Stockbridge City Council acted illegally, in March, when they extended Gibson’s contract, after Stuart sued council members over their decision to keep Gibson as city administrator, even though he lacked a required academic degree].
Stuart said after Gibson’s departure, he made himself the new point of contact to communicate with Total Tech Group.
“The council appointed David Milliron as treasurer, and named David as an IT point of contact,” said Stuart. “That takes away from his duties as treasurer. IT is a full-time job.”
Besides his mayoral duties, Stuart is acting as city administrator, and now as an IT point of contact. Stuart referred additional inquiries to attorney Jack Hancock of the Freeman Mathis & Gary law firm, which represents the city. Hancock could not be reached for comment.
Stuart, as Stockbridge’s chief executive officer, has the right to view e-mail accounts for employees in the city. However, Milliron said Stuart, in May, made a request to monitor employee e-mails, without the knowledge of employees.
“Quite frankly, unless there is an exemption in the state’s public access laws, we presume that all of our e-mails are open to inspection by the public,” said Milliron. “But I would not expect the mayor, or any other elected official, to have secret access to my, or any other employee’s e-mails, unless there was a city policy that informed employees that they had no expectation of privacy with respect to their e-mail communications. There is no such policy in place.
“The mayor always makes broad, sweeping statements that he has received complaints,” Milliron continued. “Everyone, with respect to the mayor, is always nameless and faceless. His request to secretly monitor employee e-mails does nothing but undermine the working relationship that we have here at City Hall.”
Stuart Bowen, a co-owner of Total Tech Group, said his company did not honor Stuart’s request to monitor employee e-mails.
“We have not been asked by anyone else to monitor current employees’ e-mails,” said Bowen. “We did give access to the clerk for the previous clerk’s (Holiday) e-mail, and to the mayor, for Ray Gibson’s e-mail. I can, with all certainty, say that no one is monitoring a current employee’s e-mail.”
Bowen said it is not unusual for his firm to grant access to former employees’ e-mail.
Gibson, on Monday, said he had “no problem” complying with Stuart’s right to access city employee e-mails.
“I never had access, or asked for access, to anyone’s e-mail,” said Gibson, who did not comment further.
Milliron added that he has not tried to gain access to employee e-mails, and that the only employees of the city who have such access are Stuart and Vasquez.
“This is normal business protocol when an employee has left their place of employment,” said Milliron.
Stuart has reportedly been monitoring Gibson’s e-mail since the former administrator’s departure from the local government, in May. Vasquez has reportedly monitored Holiday’s former e-mail account for the city since January, when Holiday was ousted as clerk by the City Council.