TOWNSEND — An electronic-communication and computer-usage policy was hotly debated between selectmen and town employees Tuesday.
“This is not a big-brother thing; it is for the protection for town and employees and to reinforce everything they do here with our equipment,” Town Administrator Andy Sheehan said.
But concerns about having a policy to protect Townsend legally and that same policy being too overbearing ended with Sheehan being asked by the selectmen to review the policy over a two-week period.
Problems arose when employees, some reading it for the first time, began looking through the policy. Systems Administrator Steve Cloutier questioned why a section regarding emails broadcast to all employees would need to be sent through the town administrator.
“There is usually two or three messages per day sent out to this list; why is there a need to exercise that level of control?” asked Cloutier.
He went on to argue the document was drafted without any expertise in the area and took issue with section three entitled “security,” which bars employees from password-sharing. Cloutier explained that causes problems because of so-called “work groups” that exist in Town Hall offices.
Within the system, employees have individual passwords to access work groups based on offices. Once in those work groups, there is no “electronic fingerprint” that is easily traced by a username, though Cloutier says he would be able to do forensic work to determine who did what when.
Selectmen Chair Robert Plamondon said he was shocked, along with Selectmen Sue Lisio, who said she was surprised at the arcane technology.
“Accounting software that does not allow for individual access is not acceptable in today’s world,” she said and requested that upgrades be looked into.
In a move to accept the policy, which was seconded, Lisio argued that it was a way to provide discourse and protect against liability.
“There are some things that are not part of collaborative process or democracy; this is necessary to protect the town,” she said
Selectman Nick Thalheimer was hesitant to agree, however, saying that he would feel more comfortable voting after a review.
Department heads will be reviewing the policy along with Cloutier and Sheehan over the next two weeks.