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The Tale of Two Governors, E-mail Style

E-mail can get you in serious trouble. Recently, the Democratic Governors of Iowa and West Virginia have learned this the hard way.

Says Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack's chief of staff, "I'm just very apologetic and humbled by the stupidity of the staff and myself." The Governor himself pleads, "I don't even know how to send a response to an e-mail, that's how technologically deficient I am."

Vilsack and his staff are in hot water for failing to comply with a public records request that requested archives of e-mail traffic on a controversial matter. They're blaming their technological incompetence for their inability to respond to the request -- a failure that's a misdemeanor under Iowa law. Read the Des Moines Register story headlined "Vilsack: I don't know how to send an e-mail."

West Virginia's Governor has the opposite problem. Governor Bob Wise been sending too many e-mails. 549 too many in fact. The bummer? He sent those hundreds of messages to a state employee that he's romantically involved with -- and she's not his wife.

The messages, all released under public records law, are more pathetic than steamy. In one, he wrote his staffer, "Sorry to have missed you tonight at Alex's I walked around for an hour and called out your name in 5 languages." Ick. Read excerpts of Governor Wise's "electronic footsie" at the Washington Post.

Remember: E-mail isn't private. It isn't secure. And it is very permanent. Somewhere, out there, there are copies of every email you've sent. As the Los Angeles Times points out, if you wouldn't write it on a postcard and mail it, don't send it in e-mail. Read the Times story on Bob Wise, "FYI: yr e-mail can haunt u 4ever" -- some great advice for handling your e-mail.

This item was originally posted at MandateMedia.com on October 6, 2003.