A Plymouth Select Board member says her emails were monitored for months by the town manager without her knowledge — a practice she only learned about recently.
Board member Betty Cavacco found out Melissa Arrighi, the town manager, has kept tabs on her inbox since July when she recently sent an email to a public employee and received an out-of-office reply from Arrighi, Wicked Local reports.
Cavacco reached out to Arrighi the following day and was told she tracks the emails of all five Select Board members, but the town manager later admitted she only does so for Cavacco’s correspondence, according to Boston 25 News.
“Why me? Why did she single me out? What is she trying to do?” Cavacco told the news outlet. “She held me to a different standard. She singled me out. I feel like it’s discrimination. It’s a bully tactic.”
Arrighi said, however, that it’s just part of her job.
The town manager told Wicked Local she started monitoring the emails after she grew concerned there were issues not all Select Board members were aware of, and added that she has strived to streamline communications through her office to keep track of information.
The town counsel advised her that the practice was legal, and she had the Town of Plymouth’s IT director make the change, she said.
“We had reached a level where our communications were constantly chaotic,” she told the publication. “We needed to find a way to know what was going on. All five members of the Select Board needed to know what was happening at the same time.”
In a statement Tuesday, Arrighi added:
“Everything I have done was in the best interest of the town and both legally and ethically, and this has been confirmed by town counsel. In this case, my decision to monitor the email was difficult, but warranted, due to continuing communication challenges that were interrupting town operations. I, as Town Manager, must manage and track town affairs and must take necessary steps to ensure that happens. I will not be thwarted from those efforts.”
Cavacco wondered aloud in an interview with Boston 25 how exactly Arrighi was able to get access to her correspondence. She noted she is not a town employee and that Arrighi technically works for the board.
“What was the physical function of her going to IT and telling them to do this? What was their response? That’s a big problem for me,” Cavacco said. “It was intentional. It’s alarming.”
Another red flag with the email-monitoring practice for Cavacco is the personal conversations she has with town employees and people who contact her, who may think what’s written between them is private, she told Wicked Local.
Arrighi said all emails that enter the town’s systems or are sent by town officials are public information, according to the outlet.
“I know she feels like her privacy has been violated, but in reality there is very little privacy,” she said, adding, “We have not violated any rights or ethics.”
— Mike Saccone (@mikesacconetv) November 18, 2020
Even so, Cavacco noted to Boston 25 that public access to emails must follow a process.
“You have to go through the Freedom of Information Act and request them,” she told the station. “Then when they’re requested, that person, which would have been myself, would have had the opportunity to redact any sensitive or personal information. I was not given that opportunity.”
Cavacco brought up the matter during a Select Board meeting last week, according to Wicked Local. The board is slated to discuss the situation in executive session on Nov. 24.
Cavacco isn’t alone in her concerns. Dick Quintal, the board’s vice chairman, said he had a problem with the fact that only Cavacco was monitored, the outlet reports.
“Why isn’t she watching us all?” Quintal asked.
As the board waits to formally take up the issue, Cavacco is also considering filing a police report and has spoken to her own legal counsel, she told Boston 25.
She believes Arrighi needs to face consequences, she said.
“I think the board needs to stand together that they will not tolerate this kind of behavior,” Cavacco said. “I’ve lost all faith and trust. I will continue to question everything, probably now even twice as much.”
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