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Rec Department Spreadsheet With Residents' Emails Shared With Former Elected Officials

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Computer Typing Email
Kaitlyn Baker

​​​​An investigation into the city of Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) Parks & Recreation Department found that a list of residents' email addresses meant only for the city's rec staff was improperly accessed by former elected officials. 

According to the Daily Gazette of Schenectady, N.Y., it was several thousand residents' email addresses that were sent to the personal email accounts of former elected officials in October 2020, according to an investigation by the city’s Commissioner of Finance office, which oversees the IT Department. Mayor Ron Kim announced the investigation's findings Monday.

The city’s rec department collected the email addresses and kept them a spreadsheet as part of the department's normal business as people took part in various recreational activities, the Gazette reported. The compromised addresses were then used by at least one political campaign on at least one known occasion, Mayor Ron Kim said. The mayor declined to name which campaign used the email addresses.

Former Mayor Meg Kelly’s Gmail account was one of the email addresses that received the spreadsheet, the investigation found, according to city officials.

The Gazette reported that Kelly didn't respond to calls seeking comment.

“Our other data indicates that other campaigns – not necessarily Meg Kelly’s – used it for their own purposes," Kim said. 

The sharing of the email addresses violates typical protocol, but city leaders were still in the process of determining if any laws were broken, Kim said, according to the Gazette.

Nothing other than names and email addresses were shared, the investigation found.

The mayor said his office became aware of the breach in protocol earlier this month after several people, whom the mayor declined to name, approached the city saying they became concerned that their email addresses had been improperly shared.

WNYT-TV reported that a city official said the emails residents received were political, trying to sway them against voting for certain school board candidates.

“Commissioner [Minita] Sanghvi’s department reviewed digital records and did in fact discover that on or about October 21, 2020, the Recreation Department email list was sent to several employees outside the Recreation Department, who would not normally have access to this information,” Kim said in a statement. “In addition, there is also digital evidence that the email spreadsheet was directly sent to former Mayor Meg Kelly’s Gmail account. It may also have been released by other elected officials, and we are continuing to investigate that possibility.”

Kim said the investigation revealed that in October 2020 there was debate in City Hall whether the Department of Recreation’s spreadsheet could be shared with other city departments.

“There was resistance, and I guess, eventually, the powers that be here prevailed,” Kim said.   

John Hirliman, the city’s administrative director of Recreation, did not return messages seeking comment, the Gazette reported. 

Kim said the city is in the process of turning over information to legal authorities to determine if there were any criminal violations. Regardless of whether any laws were violated, the breach of protocol is concerning, the mayor said. 

“We don’t know who is using the email addresses and what they are using them for,” Kim said.

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