In one of the rare instances of merit that leads to power in contemporary South Dakota politics, Lee Schoenbeck becomes Senate King because he is generally smarter than the average legislator. But at yesterday’s Legislature Executive Committee meeting, Senator Schonbeck said something unusually stupid about the new e-board ban on lawmakers using their state electronic devices for personal dealings:
Senators Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, and Gary Cammack, R-Union Center, opposed the change. Schoenbeck, an attorney presiding this year, has been using his personal device for legislative matters. “That would be a turning point for the legislature,” said Schönbeck.
… Schönbeck predicted that about 100 lawmakers would violate the ban and about five would follow it. “Just so you know, this is a mess deal,” Schoenbeck said. He suggested sending out an email to notify lawmakers of the change [Bob Mercer, “Outside Business Banned on SD Legislators’ Accounts,” KELO-TV, 2022.11.15].
First – wait a minute: the E-Board is only now issuing this ban? Thirty years into the internet age, and the Legislature doesn’t have a basic IT policy telling users not to send love letters and offers for their private businesses from their public, taxpayer-funded, official Legislature electronic information devices?
Second – “a fundamental change”?! For real? You mean almost every legislator has mistakenly assumed for years that it’s perfectly fine to do private business with public devices? No wonder we didn’t hear any outrage from the Schoenbeck caucus at the governor’s taking teenagers on the state plane for a spin.
Third – “a mess deal”? Over the past thirty years, various public and private employers have given me access to a variety of electronic information retrieval devices. With any job, I have taken it for granted that my employer expects me to use the employer’s computers, network, and other tools solely for the employer’s business. I assumed every employer would expect me to do work on work machines in my free time and save my personal business for my personal devices. I have not blogged or tweeted on school computers (except when blogging or tweeting for my employers). I didn’t take private calls on my work phone (hell, I even avoid taking private calls on my home phone when I’m on the watch for my employer). I certainly haven’t touched my PayPal or online banking on any device my bosses own. Keeping private, personal matters off my employers’ devices doesn’t create “mess” for me – it actually reduces the chaos (distraction, inefficiency, breach of trust and privacy…) that can result when personal and work lives don’t stay in place properly divided up.
I’m surprised to have to say this to Lee, who is a lawyer and should therefore have a thorough understanding of the issues that can arise when workers do personal, private dealings with equipment owned by someone else or the public. (And already I’m wondering if I could file an open-records request for every personal message stored on a Legislature computer, tablet, or phone, since all data stored on Lee’s computer with government equipment goes to the Government belongs, as does the Devices, and its personal, non-Government communications do not fall under the Open Records Act exceptions.)
But Lee – Lee! Your state computer is not your computer. Keep your personal affairs on your PC! This doesn’t create chaos… or at least it shouldn’t among responsible employees who respect the resources made available to them to conduct their employer’s business, which in your case is people’s business.