06 July 2009

A sad reminder to civil servants to be careful what you post online at work

Today’s Telegraph carries an item regarding the sacking of Lisa Greenwood, from her £16k a year civil servant at the Department of Children, Schools and Families.

Miss Greenwood, 38, posted an anonymous message on the internet at the height of the furore over abuse of the second home allowances. Rather foolishly she posted the comment from a work computer. Her comment was traced back to her work email account.

Miss Greenwood had been angered by Miss Blears's ability to avoid paying capital gains tax on the sale of her designated second home. On May 13 she posted the following comment anonymously, on a political website: "How dare you wave a cheque about on national TV, saying that you are sorry. You are only sorry that you have been caught. You are a disgrace (including all the other honourable members). Why haven't you been sacked?"

Miss Greenwod, who had worked for the DCSF for seven months, was brought before a disciplinary panel and dismissed on May 22.

"A written warning I could understand, but I was shocked to be sacked," she said. "It has been extremely upsetting that I have been sacked for having an opinion. When the scandal broke we had all been discussing it at work, despite the civil service code. It was just the same in writing that everyone else had been saying at work and discussing openly in the office."

A DCFS spokesman said Miss Greenwood had been found guilty of gross misconduct and had brought the Government department into disrepute. "The civil service has a clear code of conduct for its employees, which states that civil servants should be politically impartial and not act in a way that could damage the reputation of their department."

Even though there was a lot of justifiable anger at the venality of our Members of Parliament, Miss Greenwood was foolish to post the comment from work. Although her comment was anonymous and she did not identify herself as a civil servant, it would have been pretty obvious from her ip address that she was posting from a government department. Had she waited until she got home nobody would have been any the wiser.

That said, I think the DCSF were needlessly heavy handed in their approach. Looking at her salary Miss Greenwood was a probationer in a very junior post (probably an Admin Assistant or maybe an Admin Officer). A verbal or written warning would have ensured that she would have kept her own counsel at work in future.


Bengbeng said...

she had an opinion n entitled to her opinion i agree but she was foolish to post the comment from the office. she made a mistake, she paid for it.

James Higham said...

found guilty of gross misconduct

We could argue this for hours over how far collective responsibility goes.

Traveling Bells said...

Ah, government! Good opinion, just wrong place to post. Sad.

CherryPie said...

Makes me wonder if there was a bit more to it than meets the eye.

jams o donnell said...

It was foolish Bengbeng but the response was over the top

That is true James

Agreed Sandy

It ould be that this was an excuse to remove her. Perhaps we will never know

Anonymous said...

The Telegraph story was incorrect, and they have amended the story on their website. The website in question was not TheyWorkForYou.

The story harms TheyWorkForYou reputation as a politically impartial charity who can be trusted with people’s personal data.

You might like to update your article with the correction see http://www.mysociety.org/2009/07/06/theyworkforyou-nothing-to-do-with-this-sacked-civil-servant-story/

jams o donnell said...

DSAS, it it harms anyone it harms trhe department in question. I have removed the reference to They Work FOr You form the text

B Walec said...

Further info here:


Susan English Mason said...

I'm sure she wasn't fired for her comment. She was fired for misuse of government equipment. I'm a civil servant and I cart my own laptop to work everyday so that they can't trace what I say or do, even on my breaks and lunch hours. It is a shame though and I'm sorry she got canned. I have been following for a long time; I put you in my side bar today. I wish everyone would read your blog so that maybe they'd care about something other than celebrity deaths and the recession.

jams o donnell said...

It was stuupid but the response was needlessly harsh. Thanks for linking. I will return the compliment