RTM debates publishing own email addresses
Published 10:25 am, Wednesday, February 17, 2016
With a website overhaul redesign that aims to make town officials more accessible, the RTM is debating whether publication of RTM delegate’s email addresses should be a requirement.
RTM Legislative and Rules Committee Chairwoman Sarah Seelye said about two-thirds of the members who responded to her request for their views on the subject acquiesced to having their personal emails published on line. About one-third of the respondents did not wish to publish an email, she said.
Focus on access to elected officials was flagged as an issue by RTM District 4 Delegate Jim Cameron two weeks ago when he presented a review of the town’s website which indicated that just six of the town’s boards, commissions, or advisory panels have up-to-date email contacts and membership rosters.
“We’ve got a number of people who’ve come back and said they don’t want their email posted or released by the League or Women Voters,” Seelye said.
A related issue, Seelye said, is a 2014 initiative that assigned RTM members darienct.gov email addresses, and whether it would be optimal to require members to use those addresses for all correspondence to comply with State Freedom of Information Act laws. In the event of a FOI request, the town could comply without dealing with the issue of correspondence to and from non-town email addresses.
The question over access to private emails of RTM members was spurred by a request from Town Clerk Donna Rajczewski asking permission from the legislature’s members to post their private emails on-line as contacts for constituents.
Rules Committee member Frank Kemp said a solution could be contacting all RTM members again about whether they wish to use their private e-mails and assign town email addresses to RTM members, whether they use them or not.
“It seems like a dead issue if two-thirds of the members have agreed to list their personal emails,” Kemp said.
District 4 RTM Delegate Martha Banks, a member of the Rules Committee who works with the League of Women Voters in Darien to compile and distribute lists of contacts via the league’s website, said unwillingness to list an email address by any RTM members doesn’t reflect well on their willingness to serve residents.
“The people who haven’t given permission; it says something to the constituents that their representatives aren’t making it very easy to contact them,” Banks said.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said it was a “no-brainer,” that RTM and other elected town officials should have a publicly listed e-mail address for residents.
Providing clear-cut contact information for town departments and boards and commissions is a goal of the imminent website redesign, she said. Keeping the website up-to-date is hindered by the lack of a single person who ensures pages are kept current across town departments, Stevenson said.
“Our real goal (with the new site) is to make it easier to get information in general,” Stevenson said. “…We use a decentralized system for the posting of information and I think that is the next thing we should work on.”