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Majority of Syracuse Common Councilors file lawsuit against Miner's administration

Tom Magnarelli
The Syracuse Common Council at a committee meeting Tuesday on the Syracuse Land Bank.


A majority of the Syracuse Common Councilors are suing Mayor Stephanie Miner's administration for shutting off their computer access on July 1 after they refused to sign a computer use policy. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in state Supreme Court.


Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
Syracuse Councilor-At-Large, Kathleen Joy (center).

Syracuse Councilor-At-Large Kathleen Joy said the computer use policy Mayor Miner wants her to sign would give the mayor's administration access to her emails and Internet browsing history and subject her to discipline if she violated the policy.


“We are an independent branch of government," Joy said. "This is a separation of powers issue. The mayor's office; we're not employed by her, nor is our staff. So, we need an independent means to monitor our own emails.”


Joy said the information technology department, which issued the computer use policy, is part of the Miner administration. Joy admitted a computer use policy is needed. 


“But to go in, through the computer through the internet and read my emails to either another councilor or to a constituent or to get a heads-up on something that we may be researching that may be contrary to some policy that the mayor's office wants, that is not acceptable,” Joy said.


Joy typed up an alternative policy for the councilors that took out the IT department's ability to monitor emails and discipline if necessary. That policy was rejected by the mayor's administration.


Mayor Miner has called the notion ridiculous that she would have power over the councilors.


“Entities that have power over the elected officials are the same entities that have power over me and that's the taxpayers and the people of the city," Miner said. "It's their computers, their technology system. It's a million dollar investment, we need to protect it and that's what a computer use policy does.


One possible solution is for the councilors to install their own computer server. Miner said if they want to do that, they will have to find the money in the budget which might mean taking it away from other departments.

“It doesn't serve the public to hire more people to pay attention to the councilors' email use policy,” Miner said.  


City Clerk John Copanas also refused to sign the computer use policy and is part of the lawsuit against the mayor's administration. Councilor-At-Large Kathleen Joy said Copanas' office was initially blocked from issuing marriage or dog licenses but the mayor's administration has allowed them access to one computer to do so.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.