Not long after I posted the email sent by Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and House Speaker Kurt Zellers to state employees, Department of Natural Resources Central Region Information Officer Harland Hiemstra copied me on this response, which he’s given me permission to share with you here:
Regardless of what any of us think about the current budget impasse and possible state government shutdown, I find it offensive and highly inappropriate for you to be using the state government email system to deliver to state employees on state time what is essentially a partisan message. We are already under a great deal of both professional and personal pressure to deal with this situation.
Your correspondence to advance a political agenda is, I believe, a possible violation of the ethics expected of state officials, and I have contacted the chair of the House Ethics Committee to see if there may be any recourse. I also will be contacting Senate officials related to this matter, as well as others.
I’d like to hear from other state employees on this. If you’re comfortable using your name and giving Mr. Hiemstra some company, please share your thoughts in the comments. If you’d rather only your agency be used as identification, please share your thoughts using this form and I’ll add them to this post. Want to see how this works? We’ve done it here and here.
More voices (updated 6/28/11 at 3:45 PM)
“I was pretty shocked at their use of my state e-mail for that tactic. It doesn’t matter which way I think the conversation with the Governor should go. If he had something to say to encourage us and help us get through this, he should have said that and then stopped. There was no reason, nor was it appropriate, to justify the Republican side of the Legislature’s position. That justification doesn’t really support me at all — nor does it matter. It does seem unethical.” — Department of Health employee
“Elections are for partisanship; governing is about making things work. He writes about sitting around the table to pay bills. You’ve got to have income to pay bills, so we won’t be able to do that if this thing goes more than two weeks.” — Pollution Control Agency employee
“I was disgusted when I received the email. It was upsetting and distracting and should not have been sent at a time when critical policy decisions are having to be made.” — Department of Human Services employee
“I must not be one of the valued state employees because I did not receive this e-mail from Zeller and Koch directly; a colleague forwarded it to me. I thought it was a joke. It is absolutely outrageous that these two would e-mail state employees on the job, and send us this very biased letter. Public employees are extremely busy trying to prepare for the potential government shutdown, in addition to our regular work duties.” — Department of Health employee
“It’s very difficult to open your professional email box and find that it contains an email from a person representing a party which feels the work you do is so insignificant, that 15 percent of your agency can be removed without considering the impacts to the public it serves. It’s even more difficult when you realize that the message is also asking you to view the one person standing between you and unemployment as the enemy and that he, and not the persons seeking to end your livelihood, is actually holding your job and employment status hostage.”
— Department of Transportation employee
“Use of the state e-mail system for what is, at root, a campaign message, is at best unethical.” — Department of Revenue employee
“This was my response to Zellers and Koch: As a state employee I must say I do not feel it is appropriate for you to use my state email inbox for an attempt to sway my political opinion, especially a message so blatantly biased toward one political party. In the seven years (this week) that I have worked at the Minnesota Department of Health I have never received such a message from any politician.
“I am also offended at having my professional email used for a message that insults my intelligence. Most Minnesotans are aware that this budget standoff would not have happened if the Republicans in our legislature would stop fighting Governor Dayton’s reasonable proposal to raise taxes less than 2% on only the richest 2% of people in the state. No one will suffer financial hardship from this tax increase. No one will have to do without any necessities. No one will have to endure without creature comforts, without most of their usual luxuries and certainly not without health care.
“So please do not send future political messages to this address. I would prefer that people with more money than they need pay higher taxes rather than my being out of work or my friends doing without the state-funded health care they rely on to survive.” — Department of Health employee
“We get a steady barrage of political emails from our Commissioner, frequently including her weekly “Commissioner Check-in.” I once responded to her, but they have continued. Even the message posted on our website regarding the status of the agency following a shutdown is needlessly politicized. I’d love to have a fresh fit of pique as my fellow state employees seem to have felt. Mine is a steady diet, to which I have become inured.” — Department of Education employee
Footnotes to the shutdown:
- Read the GOP email to state workers
- Dayton told us how many he’d keep, but how many will be left behind?
- Read the layoff notice
- See the flyers some union members are being asked to hand out
- Read Mark Dayton’s June 15 email to state employees
Keep reading! The Intelligencer covers the shutdown:
- State sends 582,000 letters to its most vulnerable: We may not be there to help you
- A dispatch from the front lines: As the shutdown approaches, chaos reigns
- State employees speak: ‘When something shuts down, it shuts down’
- The waiting game: What state employees are doing at home to prepare for the shutdown
- Are you a state employee bracing for a shutdown?