Ethics Opinion Number 1006-04
Code of Ethics Opinion
(A specific opinion, limited to these facts)
Whether or not it is a violation of the Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct (EP&COC) for an employee to send, from the employee's UK email account, a personal, non-University business message to a Commonwealth of Kentucky official concerning the official's wife and her web home page?
The Governor's office notified University officials of an email message, allegedly sent from a UK employee's email account. The attached copy of the message (Attachment A) indicates that the message was sent at 3:10:23 a.m. on September 1, 2004 from the email account/address of firstname.lastname@example.org. The message inquires about a homepage for the Governor's spouse. The employee is a IS Technical Support Specialist I, an exempt, monthly paid employee who provides computer support to a department in an academic college.
Presuming the facts are true as presented, the action in these facts are a violation of the EP&COC.
In the Section entitled "Use of the University's Name," it states, "University members are encouraged to contribute to public debate as citizens. In instances where University members comment publicly as part of their official University duties, they should do so using University stationery and e-mail accounts; when commenting as citizens, University members must use personal stationery and personal e-mail accounts."
A printed copy of the message indicates that it was sent from the employee's UK email account; it was sent at 3:10:23 a.m. on Wednesday, September 1. While encouraging University community members to be citizens contributing to public debate, the EP&COC provides that employees should use personal email accounts for personal communications as citizens. UK email accounts should be used for official UK duties." (Italics added.) The employee has no official University reason to be communicating with the Governor of the Commonwealth. The nature of the message is personal, non-business related and reflects the sender's opinion.
Recommended Course of Action
The employee's action should be investigated by the appropriate authorities, e.g., Human Resources and Information Systems officials. If the employee admits this action or if the facts proved that the employee took this action, it is a violation of the EP&COC and should be dealt with accordingly. If there is an admission or if the facts prove guilt, the Ethics Committee believes that, since the EP&COC has not officially been sent to members of the University community as a public document, due to the nature of the offense, and due to this being the first offense, the appropriate disciplinary action be implemented by the department, after consultation with HR and IS officials. It is the Committee's thought that a written or an oral warning would probably be appropriate.