(from Maine Townsman, "Technology Note")
E-Mail is common in many computer networks and over the Internet It is also available to municipalities through MINet, MMAs Municipal Information Network. As a new communication medium it does present some issues that should be considered by individuals and municipalities alike.
E-Mail is not confidential:
It can be read at several points in the transmission process by system administrators or "the Boss" or on the recipients machine(s);
Employers have the right to read business communications done on "company" machines;
Deleted e-mail can be retrieved by computer experts; and
E-mail is acceptable as evidence in lawsuits.
Never write anything that will offend anyone:
E-mail should never violate the anti-discrimination laws & rulings since not only the author but the system owner (municipality) could be held responsible, and
E-mail should never contribute to a hostile work environment and open up charges of harassment.
To address these issues, Municipalities should institute an e-mail policy (sample available on MINet) containing:
Consent form for monitoring of e-mail;
Statement of acceptable and unacceptable uses, possible restricted to only town business
Policy for retaining documents transmitted by e-mail (possibly based on your current method of retaining paper files)