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Computer use policy still in dispute in Syracuse

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News File Photo
Syracuse Councilor-At-Large Kathleen Joy (center), at a committee meeting in July.

A lack of email access still dogs some Syracuse Common Councilors. A dispute over a computer use policy continues, although negotiations between city hall and lawmakers could bring the story to a close.

Seven lawmakers haven’t had access to city computers since July 1, after they refused to sign a computer use policy. Two months and a losing lawsuit later, they are still trying to work out issues of whether elected officials should have to sign the same policy every other city employee does. The councilors refused to sign the standard required policy because they say it gives the mayor’s administration to monitor their email and internet use.

The sticking point now, according to Councilor-at-Large Kathleen Joy, is whether the city clerk, who’s appointed by the council, should be lumped in with all other city employees and be forced to sign the document.

"We can’t allow any mayor to overreach their authority to step into the business of the legislative branch -- that includes the clerk, that includes the city auditor. That’s why they’re separate. Those are the checks and balances of government. If we start to chip away with that, and having another branch reviewing what that other branch is doing and having the power to discipline, fire, well, then you have a kingdom and you have a queen or a king,” said Joy.

A state supreme court judge threw out the councilors lawsuit law week, saying they needed an official vote before taking legal action.  

Joy says lawmakers still have the option to go back to court, but she’s hoping to go back to Mayor Stephanie Miner's administration and work things out. And she says they are close to being able to agree.

"We’re three words away from an agreement. I’m hoping to go back and talk to the administration again to get this ironed out,” said Joy.

The dispute has already cost thousands of dollars of taxpayer dollars for legal fees.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.