Imagine you own a business, and you find out one of your employees has been using his or her company email to link to Ashley Madison, the website that supposedly arranges affairs between married people.
Over at NC Capitol Connection, Matt Caulder has been looking into government emails that have turned up in a hack of the site. He encountered a startling claim by a municipal government: Email apparently sent via a City of Greensboro account to Ashley Madison supposedly is none of the public's business.
And we thought that public employees are employees of the public.
Here's the crux of the issue: The people deserve to know what their employees are doing.
Let's look at it another way: Let's say an employee is using his Greensboro city email, during business hours, to play World of Warcraft for hours on end.
If you're that employee's boss, that's your business. And we the people of North Carolina are his boss. That makes his time playing video games our business.
And if a government employee was using city resources, and perhaps time, to try to set up some hanky-panky, that's our business.
That's why Ashley Madison-connected emails are public records. It's not whether the email itself concerned official business. The whole point is that the email itself didn't concern public business — and that is a misuse of public resources (and, possibly, time).