RTM Members Won’t Get Town Emails: Too Expensive, Easy Workaround for Compliance

One of the issues pointed out by March On candidates last fall was that RTM members lack town email addresses. Instead they communicate in an official capacity using their personal email.

“Every elected official should have a town email address,” said Karen Giannuzzi last September. Giannuzzi, who would go on to win a seat in District 11, said some RTM members don’t even have email.

The March On Greenwich candidates weren’t the first to urge RTM members get town emails.The League of Women Voters of Greenwich’s published a list of recommended changes for the RTM, which includes assigning town email addresses to all 230 members.

Tuesday night’s RTM meeting, which was broadcast live on channel 79, included a resolution that would require RTM members to comply with the town policy on the use of emails for Town business.

The Chair of the RTM legislative and rules committee, Doug Wells, said his committee had had concerns that if RTM members used their private email for town business, anyone could use the Freedom of Information Act to access their personal email.

“One should assume that there is no privacy connected with any town email address when communicating about town business,” Wells said.

However, Wells said there is a workaround.

Any email about town business sent to an RTM member’s personal email can be in compliance with the town if the sender cc’s:  [email protected]

He said cost to license a town email address is $40. Multiply that by 230 members and the expense rises to $9,200.

Currently 52 of the 230 RTM members have town email accounts.

Anticipate Facebook news feed changes. If you Follow Greenwich Free Press on Facebook, select the “See First” option under “Follow” or you may no longer see our posts in your news feed.

Richard Neuman, chair of Town Services Committee, said the actual cost to the town are much higher because they include “time costs” of the help desk.

He said it would cost closer to $33,000 to set up the email accounts once “time costs” are factored in, and that the project would monopolize the Town’s IT department.

Furthermore, not every RTM member has a device capable of running a town email address.

“The help desk estimates it takes about two hours to fully onboard a new email account. That includes getting the account set up and training the person to use it,” said District 11’s Richard Neuman, adding that the work can only be done Monday through Friday between 8:00am and 5:00pm. “And you can’t ask for help in the evening or weekend,” he said.

Neuman said that to avoid making his personal email account vulnerable to Freedom of Information Act requests, he created a gmail account for his RTM correspondence, at [email protected]. “It cost me nothing and took 5 minutes,” he said.

“I’m sure our soon-to-be-formed RTM Technology Committee can help us,” Neuman said, adding that communication has been working smoothly regardless of whether an RTM member uses town or personal email.

There was no mention of RTM members who have no email. They may have to wait until a Technology Committee is formed.

During discussion, there was a suggestion to return the item to the Legislative and Rules Committee, but Mr. Wells said that would be inappropriate. “We’ve already passed on this,” he said.

Jennie Baird from District 5 said she supported the concept of standardized email addresses for RTM members.

“Mandating emails, and then putting the onus back on individual volunteers pretty much guarantees non compliance,” she said.

Baird said the Town needs to figure out a way to create email addresses in a seamless way. She said the Town currently uses the Microsoft suite, in a closed tech environment.  “It doesn’t work well on devices, like an older iPhone,” she said. “That’s a headache for RTM members and tech staff. I’m not up for buying us all up-to-date mobile devices to support the system.”

Baird suggested the resolution again be taken up again by the Legislative and Rules committee. “I don’t want to postpone it indefinitely,” she said.

District 10’s David W. Detjen who lists a personal gmail address on the town web page for RTM, said, “The appropriate course is to kill this sucker now, and let this go to the Technology Committee whenever it is established.”

In a voice vote, members did not favor returning the resolution to the Legislation and Rules Committee. In a second voice vote the item was postponed indefinitely.