Shumlin Emails state employees “thank you” and pay raise as campaign season kicks off

By Rob Roper

The Agency of Administration’s Department of Human Resources Personnel Policy & Procedure Manual states that, “Use of the Internet including email is for State business.” The regulations continue, “…employees shall not use or attempt to use State personnel, property, or equipment for their private use or for any use not required for the proper discharge of their official duties.”

The section on Political Activity, which is Applicable To: All classified employees, as well as exempt, temporary, and contractual, and most exempt employees with the Executive Branch of the State of Vermont, explains that rules are in place to “avoid possible conflict of interest; to ensure that employees can perform their jobs without being pressured to support political candidates or to interpret regulations favorably for supporters of such candidates; and to promote public confidence in the integrity of Vermont State Government to the end that State employees will not be perceived as making decisions on the basis of political loyalties.”

In other words, it’s not cool to use state, taxpayer-funded emails for political campaign purposes. Ever.

So, this email comes from Governor Peter Shumlin last Friday, as the election season kicks off, to all Vermont State Employees:

From: Governor Peter Shumlin

Sent: Friday, May 11, 2012 5:12 PM

 To: SOV – ALL

 Subject: Thank You

Dear State Employees,

I wanted to take a moment this afternoon to say thank you for all of your hard work. This year Vermont state employees have faced unprecedented challenges, but through it all you have shown courage, dedication, resourcefulness, exceptional talent and true Vermont spirit. Irene tested us with all she had, but every one of you stepped up to meet the challenge and working through adversity proved that we truly are Vermont Strong. I am proud to be your Governor and want you to know how much I appreciate the work you do every day.

Have a great weekend,

Peter Shumlin

p.s. Moments ago, I was proud to sign the Pay Act, which restores the 3 percent cut that you generously took two years ago to help the State through tough times and gives an additional 2.85 percent raise starting July 1st.

PS. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge…. Remember in November who put the extra dollars in your pocket. (Actually it’s the taxpayers, not the governor, but that little nuance will likely be lost on the recipients of the email.)

Is this “pressure to support a political candidate?’ Will state employees “be perceived as making decisions on the basis of political loyalties?” Shumlin’s language is worded cleverly enough that he’s probably safe in a court of law. However, elections are held in the court of public opinion.