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Defensive Line: FSSA Attacks Activist For Asking Insiders To Speak Out

Notlistening_2UPDATE: Here's a more complete piece from Ken Kusmer at the Associated Press.

Hat tip to Blue Indiana for pointing TDW to this AP story about the Family and Social Services Administration's attempts to silence a privatization critic who's been sending e-mails to state employees:

"A web site that is soliciting anonymous information from state human services employees about changes to Indiana's welfare benefits system has drawn a strong response from the agency.

"An attorney for the Family and Social Services Administration has sent a letter to an organizer of concernedhoosiers.org asking her to stop sending e-mail messages to state workers.

"Beryl Cohen of Concerned Hoosiers says the site is not political and that it has received both positive and negative reports about the state's effort to privatize enrollment for food stamps, Medicaid and other benefits.

"Cohen says it's not the group's goal to get Indiana's 10-year, one billion dollar privatization contract canceled."

It's always a good strategy to come out swinging when people criticize a no-bid deal that was largely negotiated behind closed doors with little public oversight. It doesn't make you look defensive at all.

Take your vitamins, kids. Your skin's looking a little thin.

Comments

http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/newsitem.asp?ID=25320

This article contains the letter. Maybe you should take the time to read it Jen. There is a little thing called the state ethics code and employees shouldn't be spending state time responding to junk e-mail.

ummm...responding to spammed Cialis advertisements is wasting taxpayer time. Discussing administrative issues with taxpayers for the betterment of children is good for all (except for defensive, inept bureaucrats).

Ms. Beryl Cohen is a former FSSA Management Official from the former administration.

Sounds like FSSA's new flacktoid needs something better to do on a Friday night.

The ethics code allegation is a big stretch.

Is it also an ethics violation for the gov to send us political emails?

I typically agree with you Jen. But:

As I read this situation, a state employee responded to a taxpayer on a particular incident, thus the heretofore private situation became public. There are procedures for those kinds of responses. Those procedures exist for a reason.

The employee violated the procedure. Disipline followed.

Except for the situation, which may have needed publicly exposed, where is the good here? Even so, because of the agency's multiple interactions on privacy fronts, patient accounts, client financial records, etc., I'm betting the procedures and policies are tight to protect those the agency serves. Sounds about right to me. Wouldn't we want a governmental agency to err on the side of caution (read: privacy) here?

What am I missing?

I think it's generally not a good PR move to lash out at one's critics.

They just made their opposition more credible by going into attack mode.

Dumb.

TDW, are you implying that the best way to handle a small, relatively unknown website that is critical of your agency ISN'T to publicly admonish them in a way that allows the AP to feel justified in writing about their cause?

Surely, you jest!

Maaaaaaaybe.

Then again, the Guv himself apparently got a bit upset when asked at a media avail today whether his trip to Japan is just a convenient escape from more pressing issues like property taxes.

Here's a little factoid I heard from a friend who works for FSSA:

State workers who try to access this site on a state computer and server are met with a message that the site has been blocked with the reason being "Concerned Hoosier" not that it's pornography, R rated or any other logical reason.

Obviously a state worker would be stupid to post from their State IP address, but my friend said that she had gotten the email a few times from concerned hoosier.

To add to the 8:27 post, although they seem a bit defensive. I didn't work for FSSA, but another agency that would get inquiries of staff from the media, organizations or politicians. The standard was to inform the designated person before responding. The point being to be sure the message going out was consistent and correct and to keep the politicians especially from doing an end run around the executive staff. It IS embarrassing to everybody when a well-meaning staff who may not be the best source of correct information responds inaccurately. Now, having said that, this administration has been the champion at creating paranoia--people assume their e-mails are monitored and I know a couple who swear their phone conversations are listened in on. Whether that is true or not, there is definitely a climate that creates that kind of suspicion. Concerned Hoosiers is probably going a bit far sending a message to a large number of employees, but if the employees want to reply, they should copy the e-mail address on paper, delete from work e-mail, go home and use their own pc to respond on their own time. And then, only if negative comments are protected.

Hmmmmm.....I don't really expect you to worry about things like "accuracy" and "facts" but how exactly was the contract "no-bid"? I seem to remember a few different companies BIDDING on it. And I'm also confused to how it was done with little public oversight when there was a public hearing, legislators had been informed a year before it happened, and it's talked about at ever FSSA Quarterly financial review (which is also open to the public).

But you're right, when groups like concernedhoosiers make allegations with no fact, attack solutions without giving ones of their own, and hide under the perception of credibility without ever having to have their motives questioned, they should be left alone.

Wait, was I describing concernedhoosiers or the Democrat Party??

Well "amused" if you want accuracy and facts don't expect to get it from this administration, they very carefully control all of the "facts" that are released. In the agency that I work for all information is routed through two people who decide what is to be released and how it is to be worded, and both of the people involved are new to this administration and they want to keep their jobs. I do agree however that employees should not be responding to these types of e-mails on company time, but I also believe that the public has a right to know what is going on in the FSSA right now and trust me things are no where near as rosy as they want you to believe.

The public "hearing" you speak of for the FSSA contract consisted of one hearing after he, (the Gov.), had made his decision. There were legislators who voiced concerns about it, the public raised concerns about it, social service organizations raised concerns about it, the FSSA was asked to run a cost-benefit analysis to see if it would save the kind of money they claimed it would, but they refused. Don’t you think it’s a bit suspicious that the company Mitch Roob used to work for got the contract, ( and by the way there were only two companies that bid and the other, Accenture never stood a chance), also look at ACS’s track record, lost personal data, stolen personal data, they paid $2.6 million to avoid going to trial for inflated payment claims on government contracts, not to mention that their Canadian affiliate was on trial in Edmonton for bid fixing on a contract with the city. Is this a little of topic, sure it is, but don’t think everything you hear from this administration about this contract is fact.

7:31 AM. You had better use your own
personal scrap piece of paper and pencil
to write down the e-mail address. Other-wise, the IG will be investigating you for stealing precious state assets such as the lead from that state pencil.

"But you're right, when groups like concernedhoosiers make allegations with no fact, attack solutions without giving ones of their own, and hide under the perception of credibility without ever having to have their motives questioned, they should be left alone.

Wait, was I describing concernedhoosiers or the Democrat Party??"

Oh, I thought I had jumped to another thread somehow! For a moment there I thought you were describing the FairTax/IndyU crowd, Amused.

At any rate, email and web browser monitoring is becoming extremely commonplace in the workplace. One should take care with what they do on a computer that they do not personally own. That is just common sense. Someone could well be keeping track of any non-work related activity on work machines, and that isn't paranoia. It's more like the people who pay you want to know what you're doing on their time and their dime. I'll go out on a limb and say they've got that right.

"stealing precious state assets such as the lead from that state pencil"

the agency i worked for would only allow the cheapest of pens to be purchased (0.06 each). half the time they didn't work out of the box, the rest only lasted a day or two.

the going joke was just like the staples (or office depot?) commercial when they run all over the office trying to find THE pen (implying it was the ONLY pen in the place) because a client was in.

or, just go across the street and steal pens from the marriott.

i just ended up buying my own, which was probably the plan all along.

Why, in this country, are we increasingly afraid of our government? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Last time I looked in a democracy, they worked for US!

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