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Miner Administration Offers Councilors Framework to Settle Computer Dispute

By Staff

 

Vision local syracuse common councilMayor Stephanie Miner’s administration hand-delivered letters to members of the Syracuse Common Council Aug. 12, outlining possible framework for an agreement to end the stalemate over the council’s objections to the city’s computer use policy, officials from the mayor’s office stated.

Miner blocked council members,’ and city Clerk John Copanas’ access to city computers and email, after they failed to sign an employee computer use policy by July 1.

A judge then denied a request from councilors and Copanas for an injunction against the mayor, which would have required the city to restore the councilors’ email access.

But, according to the mayor’s chief of staff, Bill Ryan, the letter offered an alternative, which would allow council members to contract with an outside service provider to offer cloud email storage and network services.

Ryan said he met with Common Councilor Kathleen Joy, Aug. 7, to discuss changes to the computer policy, and they agreed to an addendum which would change the language in the policy to state elected officials cannot be terminated by the administration.

He said they also agreed the city would allow council members to have their own email sub-domain, for which the council would contract with an outside email service provider, and city information technology staff would have no access to their records.

The council would be responsible for maintaining records in accordance with Freedom of Information Laws.

In addition, Ryan said, the city would reserve the right to suspend or terminate computer use privileges for egregious violations.

A full copy of the letter is below:

August 12, 2015

Members of the Common Council

Syracuse City Hall

233 East Washington St.

Syracuse, New York 13202

 

Dear Councilors:

In an attempt to resolve our ongoing disagreement over the computer use policy, I met with Councilor Kathleen Joy on Friday, August 7 to address her concerns. After a discussion, we agreed to a framework of changes to the Computer Use Policy which balance the Council’s independence and our need for IT security.

We would provide an addendum to the computer use policy which would provide for the following:

  • Elected officials cannot be terminated by the administration. Internet access can, however, be terminated for an egregious violation of the computer use policy pending an investigation.
  • The staff of elected officials cannot be terminated by the administration except when appropriate action is not taken by their supervisor. Additionally, the administration reserves the rights to suspend or terminate computer use privileges for egregious violations.

The addendum would also indicate that it applied to the Office of the City Clerk as the Clerk is an appointee of the Council.

Councilor Joy asked if we would consider deleting sections of the policy as they pertain to elected officials and their staffs, including: Section II, § A,B and C; Section VI, § A and B; Section XIV, § B and C; Section XVI, § C. We determined that the administration could not agree to these changes in the policy.

Another alternative was presented by staff in the Department of Information Technology. The Council may choose have its own email sub-domain (e.g.,councilor@council.syrgov.net). This will allow email traffic using a sub-domain to be segregated to a separate email server.  The Council would be responsible for contracting out for this system to a service provider.  This would also require that the Council obtain its own internet connection and any associated hardware.  The City IT Department would have no access to the Council’s email server.   The Council would be responsible for the purchase and maintenance of this system through its budget. Additionally, the Council would need to maintain its email records in accordance with Freedom of Information Law. Should councilors or their staff wish to use applications (such as AS400, PeopleSoft) on the City’s network, they would be required to sign the Computer Use Policy.

I hope you will see the merits of these and we can come to some agreement. These two alternatives are ways in which we can put this issue behind us, end the costly and wasteful litigation, and get back to doing the people’s business.

Sincerely,

[SIGNED]

William M. Ryan

Chief of Staff

 

CC: Hon. Martin Masterpole, City Auditor

John Copanas, City Clerk

Derrek Thomas, Director of Personnel and Labor Relations