In a June 8 memo to the HR and IT head honchos, Treasurer Jeb Spaulding writes:
"After careful consideration, I have elected to implement the site blocking component office-wide but to limit the site monitoring to my deputy (Beth Pearce) and me. I will not agree to the site monitoring or the establishment of a database with the ability to collect such information about our staff, as I believe it undermines the trust we have developed and is, in fact, counter to the establishment of a productive work environment."
Kudos to the Treasurer for standing up for his employees! Others???
TO: Caroline Earle, Commissioner, DHR
David Tucker, Commissioner, DII
FROM: Jeb Spaulding, State Treasurer
DATE: 8 June 2010
RE: Web Content Filtering and Monitoring
The Treasurer’s office has reviewed the Web Content Filtering Implementation Guidelines, including site blocking and site monitoring. After careful consideration, I have elected to implement the site blocking component office-wide but to limit the site monitoring to my deputy (Beth Pearce) and me. I will not agree to the site monitoring or the establishment of a database with the ability to collect such information about our staff, as I believe it undermines the trust we have developed and is, in fact, counter to the establishment of a productive work environment.
We have inquired as to whether site blocking and monitoring may be separated — i.e., we can implement the blocking without the site monitoring, or in the alternative, implement blocking only for specific IP addresses. We have been advised by DII staff that both options are technically feasible. As we agreed at the meeting of May 19th with your staff, the Treasurer’s Office, as a separate constitutional office, has latitude in adopting the guidelines in whole or in part.
While the Treasurer’s Office is indeed a separate constitutional office, we generally subscribe to the administrative bulletins and guidelines promulgated by the Administration. In fact, I cannot remember a time in recent years where we have not agreed to adopt such bulletins and guidelines. We have enjoyed a positive working relationship with your staff members and those throughout state government. The issues here, however, constitute a substantial difference of opinion on the issue of privacy and the effect of such an initiative on the morale and resulting productivity of the state workforce. Therefore, I state the basis of my objections below.
I believe that taxpayers have every right to expect excellence from state workers and cost-effective state services. We have taken a number of steps to that end. We have hired competent employees, and encouraged open communication, professionalism, respect, customer service, and teamwork among them. Moreover, we appropriately delegate duties and hold employees accountable for their actions. We have worked hard with our staff over the years to develop a set of organizational values in support of these efforts.
There are many examples that demonstrate our success. We have worked diligently to reduce paperwork and manual processing by increasing acceptance of electronic payments, providing vendors with details of electronic payments through a self-service web site, by publishing forms and documents on the Vermont State Treasurer’s web site, and by conducting standard customer interactions via e-mail. We have more than tripled the amount of
unclaimed property returned to Vermonters; processed a record number of state, teacher, and municipal retirements despite having a small staff; and recently worked closely with the legislature, NEA, and others to reduce the costs of our teacher pension system by almost 24% in the next fiscal year as well as for years to come. We have been effective stewards of taxpayer money during the recent historic downturn in the economy. We have implemented prudent debt management programs that have saved the taxpayers millions over the years through cost-effective issuance and taking advantage of refunding opportunities.
These results have been accomplished in no small measure due to the efforts of our staff. Even as we made painful layoffs 18 months ago, our remaining staff has taken on more responsibilities. They were able to accomplish the above and many other successful efforts out of a sense of dedication and commitment to public service and standards of excellence. A Web monitoring initiative will not create additional efficiencies but would have the effect of undermining the trust and good management that currently exist. Additionally, I feel the existing Department of Human resources policy on Electronic Communications and Internet Use (Number 11.7) that was updated in 2007 adequately addresses this issue and provides sufficient guidance for both management and staff.
It has been suggested that we have to make sure, as responsible managers of taxpayer dollars, that the state employee workforce is being as efficient as it can be. I agree. However, the site monitoring initiative is not, in my judgment, the way to achieve this goal. Rather, it is achieved through good management practices, setting the right goals and objectives and communicating them to staff, having the experience needed to possess clear vision, and the commitment by staff at all levels to work toward that vision. I have seen many examples of this approach throughout all of state government and am proud of what many state workers have accomplished during very challenging times. While I cannot speak for those agencies outside of the Treasurer’s Office, I know that such monitoring will not add value to my Department, but instead will undermine our ongoing efforts.
The Treasurer’s Office will agree to blocking of inappropriate sites as identified by DII for all staff, but will not permit any IT configuration that allows collection of data on Web usage by our employees, with two exceptions. So as not to have our position misinterpreted, we will agree to establish site monitoring for my deputy, Beth Pearce, and me. We will reserve the right to extend monitoring to a specific employee, after due notice to that employee, in the event that we identify a potential problem, although we believe our current management approach is more than sufficient to address any productivity concerns.
Your staff requested guidance concerning notice to employees on our implementation of the Web content Filtering Implementation Guidelines. Any notice to our staff would include only the site blocking. I would request your staff work with Beth Pearce and Michael Clasen to prepare this notice for distribution to our staff.
If you have any questions concerning my decision, please feel free to call me at 828-1452. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
cc: Neale Lunderville, Secretary of Administration
Karin Tierney, Human Resources
John Quinn, DII
Jes Kraus, VSEA
Beth Pearce, State Treasurer’s Office
Michael Clasen, State Treasurer’s Office
Ram Verma, State Treasurer’s Office