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Schoenbeck Surprised Legislators Shouldn’t Use State Computer for Personal Business

In one of the rare instances of merit leading to power in contemporary South Dakota politics, Lee Schoenbeck gets to be Senate King because he is generally smarter than the average legislator. But at yesterday’s meeting of the Legislature’s Executive Board, Senator Schoenbeck said something uncharacteristically dumb about the E-Board’s new ban on legislators’ using their state electronic devices for personal business:

Senators Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, and Gary Cammack, R-Union Center, spoke against the change. Schoenbeck, a lawyer who chairs the board this year, has been using his personal device for legislative matters. “It would be a sea change for legislators,” Schoenbeck said.

…Schoenbeck predicted that about 100 legislators would violate the ban and about five would follow it. “Just so you know, this is a chaos deal,” Schoenbeck said. He suggested an email be sent to notify legislators about the change [Bob Mercer, “Outside Business Banned on SD Legislators’ Accounts,” KELO-TV, 2022.11.15].

First—wait a minute: the E-Board is just enacting this ban now? Thirty years into the Internet Age, and the Legislature doesn’t have a basic IT policy telling users not to send love letters and bids for their private businesses from their public, taxpayer-funded, official Legislative electronic information devices?

Second—”a sea change”?! Really? You mean nearly every legislator has mistakenly assumed for years that it’s perfectly fine to do private business on public equipment? No wonder we’ve heard no outrage from the Schoenbeck caucus about the Governor’s taking teenage boys joyriding on the state plane.

Third—”a chaos deal”? For the past thirty years, a variety of employers, public and private, have given me access to a variety of electronic information retrieval devices. At every job, I’ve taken it for granted that my employer expects me to use the employer’s computers, network, and other tools strictly for the employer’s business. I’ve assumed that every employer expects me to do work on work machines and save my personal business for my personal devices on my own time. I haven’t blogged or tweeted on school computers (except when composing blog posts or tweets for my employers). I haven’t taken personal calls on my work phone (heck, I even avoid taking personal calls on my personal phone when I’m on the clock for my employer). I sure as heck haven’t touched my Paypal or online banking on any device owned by my bosses. Keeping private, personal business off my employers’ devices doesn’t cause me any “chaos”—it actually reduces the chaos (distraction, inefficiency, violations of trust and privacy…) that can ensue when personal life and work life don’t remain properly compartmentalized.

I’m surprised I have to say this to Lee, who is a lawyer and who thus should keenly understand the problems that can arise if workers are doing personal, private business on devices owned by someone else or by the public. (And already I’m wondering if I could file an open records request for every personal message stored on a Legislative computer, tablet, or phone, since all of the data stored on legislators state devices belongs to the state, just like the devices, and their personal, non-governmental communications would not be covered by any of the exemptions to the open records law.)

But Lee—Lee! Your colleagues need to understand that their state computers are not their computers. Legislators, keep your personal business on your personal computer! Doing so won’t cause chaos… or at least it shouldn’t among responsible employees who respect the resources provided for them to do their employers’ business, which in your case is the people’s business.


  1. SuperSweet 2022-11-16 20:39

    Not only that but public entities should have an Internet use policy in place since 30 years ago detailing all of which you speak. I am certain you never violated said policy.

  2. P. Aitch 2022-11-16 21:44

    “I’ve been elected to rule and thus I make the rules.”

  3. Observer 2022-11-16 22:23

    Well, we’ve always done it this way…

  4. DaveFN 2022-11-16 23:32

    The SDBOR at one time in their policy made exemptions for “occasional personal use” for their employees.

  5. John 2022-11-17 03:42

    Hahaha, the AG’s office, DCI, and a state circuit court applied the legal doctrine of waiver to punishing use/conversion of state property for private use. Remember kristi and her little plane. Same legal waiver doctrine applies to Lee’s electron box. Ain’t corruption grand?!
    Lee and his bumblers could run businesses using their state computers and the state could do nothing about it.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-11-17 05:28

    Indeed, SuperSweet! I’ve seen Internet use policies at every job I’ve had since the Internet access was a thing at work. To Observer’s observation, I am amazed that the Legislature ever did things Lee’s way without such a policy barring personal use of public resources.

    “Occasional personal use”? Sounds like a quagmire to me. But it doesn’t sound like Lee is talking about occasional personal use. It sounds like he’s talking about regular practice.

  7. Lee Schoenbeck 2022-11-17 05:59

    fyi. I DO NOT have a state device. I don’t use theirs. You misunderstood my concern. Legislators currently, as do likely all of your many computer literate followers, point their email addresses, all of them, at one device. You want all your emails coming to one inbox to efficiently and timely deal with them. This has been allowed, and assisted by our legislative staff – for both parties. This policy changes that, which is a practice used by both Democrats and Republicans.

  8. larry kurtz 2022-11-17 06:10

    Surfing for porn and cannabis seeds on state owned devices is bad. It is very bad.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-11-17 06:25

    Thanks for the clarification, Lee. I am relieved to know that enterprising agitators cannot file an open-records request for your state-issued tablet or hard drive or phone and retrieve all of your surely salacious personal pheasant recipes.

    I have edited to the text above to make clearer what Lee stated in committee, that he uses his personal device for Legislative business, but that apparently most of his colleagues mingle personal and public business on their state devices.

    Legislators apparently regularly engage in bad work practice.

    I’ve had multiple devices, personal and business. I’ve never pointed my personal accounts (email, twitter, etc.) to my employer’s device. I have used my personal computer to access employers’ resources when working from home (with the employers’ permission, with secure logins and VPN, and not storing work documents on my personal devices), but I don’t use employer devices to access my personal accounts and documents. I’m even skittish about using my personal devices for work, because I don’t want my employer to be able to claim a right to search my personal devices or access my personal data.

    Democrats and Republicans alike will need to adopt the basic good practice of keeping their personal/private business off public devices.

  10. sx123 2022-11-17 08:16

    The BYOD movement has sparked improvements by Google and Microsoft for keeping personal and company info segregated, but still available on one device.

    Obviously shouldn’t be surfing Facebook all day at work, but I think phones and computers have become extensions of one’s mind.

    If companies want some employees (IT) available 24/7, they shouldn’t bitch about a little personal info or activity on company computers.

  11. sx123 2022-11-17 08:20

    Word of warning though: easy to accidentally send personal emails from personal accounts to work accounts and the other way around…

  12. e platypus onion 2022-11-17 08:34

    Both sides do it? One side of this inbred magat legislature has zero power to say yes or no to whatever bills magats push through. When you say you don’t have a state device, do you mean now or never had one. Words are tricky little critters to play with. One final note, magats aren’t noted for their honesty. See drumpf and Noem Nothing, for starters.

  13. Scott Ehrisman 2022-11-17 09:08

    Hey Lee, Gmail accounts are FREE, you should check it out. Just type in g-o-o-g-l-e and create an account. It’s that easy!

  14. O 2022-11-17 09:22

    Do legislators get state-provided devices? Or is this only about their e-mail accounts (which they are accessing on their own devices)?

  15. Ben Cerwinske 2022-11-17 09:57

    While much can be said for Corey’s strict separation between work and personal, most people wouldn’t begrudge the “occasional” mixture. It’s the hypocrisy that irritates me. How would Sen. Schoenbeck, or at least his fellow legislators, feel about other people (say, public school teachers) ever mixing the two on the job?

  16. Kurt Evans 2022-11-17 20:54

    Cory writes:

    … Lee Schoenbeck gets to be Senate King because he is generally smarter than the average legislator.

    I’d have agreed if you’d replaced the word legislator with current state senator.

    But at yesterday’s meeting of the Legislature’s Executive Board, Senator Schoenbeck said something uncharacteristically dumb … No wonder we’ve heard no outrage from the Schoenbeck caucus about the Governor’s taking teenage boys joyriding on the state plane.

    Senator Schoenbeck replies to Cory:

    You misunderstood my concern.

    Schoenbeckian-to-English translation: “The assertion that you’re a wackadoodle isn’t debatable by people who believe in facts, but I have a selfish motive for trying to stay on your good side.”

  17. grudznick 2022-11-17 21:21

    Mr. Evans, are you a witch?

  18. Jenny 2022-11-18 02:27

    P. Aitch, sad but not surprising that SD has the highest healthcare costs in the nation. You are asking way too much for Schoenbeck, the good little Catholic he is who is against medicaid expansion, to address healthcare costs.
    Come on Pierre Pubs, keep up the great work! Freedom is great!

  19. O 2022-11-18 08:46

    Then if I understand the new rule, legislators are being required to use their legislative e-mail (and do their legislative work) ONLY on their legislative device. They are not to use their e-mail on a personal device. In effect, they will need to carry and work on two devices (as they ought not do their personal work on their legislative device either). Is that the gist of it? I would guess now that if I understand Sen Schoenbeck’s point above that some, if not many, choose to get all their e-mail sent to a personal device and do all their e-mail from one centralized location (but keep addresses separate for legislative/work/personal matters)? Carry one phone instead of two (or more)?

  20. Jake 2022-11-18 10:11

    If that is the least of the issues in being a ‘legislator’ why do they all lust so hard and spend so much time, energy and money in becoming such?! It’s not like they have to traverse wagon trails in a buggy thru snowdrifts. A “cushy” job always needs to become “more cushy”; witness, for example the wealthy’s desire to have their taxes lessened year after year! Enough is never enough!

  21. grudznick 2022-11-18 10:59

    Next thing you know, the legislatures will be buying everybody an extra cell phone and one of those etch-a-sketch computers the young people are so fond of. These fellows all have fancy offices and catered meals every day. They should have to buy their own lunches like everyone else.

  22. Kurt Evans 2022-11-18 13:20

    Jenny writes:

    You are asking way too much for Schoenbeck, the good little Catholic he is who is against medicaid expansion, to address healthcare costs.

    Roman Catholics generally support more government involvement and centralized authority over individuals’ medical expenses. Senator Schoenbeck probably made an exception in this case because he’ll have less money at the legislature’s discretion after the state’s new constitutionally mandated Medicaid expenditures.

    Ironically Senator Schoenbeck may have done more than anyone else to discredit opposition to the expansion.

  23. sdslim69 2022-11-20 15:37

    Some of the folks on this thread do not understand how all this”internet” stuff works. I can have a company machine (computer,laptop,phone), and access my account on G-mail, Midco, Hotmail, etc, and not have it stored on that machine. It is called a client. I am only accessing the client. When I close that site, it is not on my machine, but a record of where I went on the net is, along with the time spent. Unless you designate that your e-mail address is your company IP/router address, then nothing is on the company/state machine. Just like a phone number, if you don’t give out your company phone number as a place to contact you, it will not be recorded on your company machine. If you use a dial in or net service to get your messages, it is not on your business machine. It all boils down to what contact information the employee/legislator is using. On the other side, it is going to be very difficult to publish contact information for a legislator on a state web site, and not have people contact them about private/non-state related issues.

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