County issues warning over chain e-mails
Last Modified: February 19. 2013 2:45AM
Some Luzerne County employees recently circulated a chain e-mail advising them to make a wish, read Saint Theresa’s prayer and see what happens on the fourth day.
Maybe their wishes will be granted, but they’re also receiving a reprimand for sending the e-mail using county equipment on county time.
“This is an issue that’s been discussed with employees over and over again – county e-mail is not to be used for personal business,” said Commissioner Chairwoman Maryanne Petrilla.
In addition to wasting county time, chain e-mails could infect the county’s system, Petrilla said.
“This is a virus waiting to happen,” Petrilla said.
County officials were alerted to the chain mail Monday by county Prothonotary Carolee Medico Olenginski. She said her deputy received the e-mail from a county worker and reported it to her.
Medico Olenginski sent an e-mail to officials saying that such chain messages may carry a virus.
“The taxpayers are paying her to play with her county computer on county time,” Medico Olenginski wrote, referring to the mailroom clerk who forwarded the letter to her deputy. “If she needs work, then I know where lots of offices can use the help.”
She followed up with an e-mail to county Controller Walter Griffith, informing him that a worker in his office started circulating the letter to other employees.
Griffith said he spoke to that employee and terminated the employee’s Internet access for a probationary period. He said he also reprimanded employees who were involved in circulating the e-mail.
“I have instructed the entire office that this is not allowable and should immediately cease,” Griffith said.
County Information Technology Director Steve Englot also sent an e-mail to all county employees around noon Monday under the subject “improper use of county e-mail system.” He told employees not to use the county e-mail system to send chain e-mails, and he posted the one sent to Medico Olenginski’s deputy so there was no question about what type of e-mail he was describing.
“I removed the names of various county employees who have been successively circulating this particular e-mail, but a record will be maintained of those individuals who persist in abusing the county e-mail system,” Englot wrote.
After the directive was issued, Petrilla sent an e-mail to Englot asking him to forward those names to her.
“This issue has been addressed many times,” she wrote to Englot.
The e-mail in question featured a picture of a colorful flower and instructed that it be sent to 11 people within 5 minutes.
Englot said the county had to invest about $4,000 to add e-mail storage space about a year ago because the county’s system had reached capacity. Employees were advised to delete unneeded e-mails, he said.
The county is also adding more e-mail users because the administration wants all county agencies in the same e-mail group, he said.
“When you have a chain e-mail like this with a photo and graphic, it takes up storage, and if it’s forwarded all over, it consumes storage in our e-mail system,” Englot said.
The county’s network has spam blockers, but viruses can sneak in when employees circulate chain letters, he said.
“It increases the risk of getting infections into the network,” he said.
Jennifer Learn-Andes, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 831-7333.