Sixth Annual Public Law Conference focuses on private lives of public attorneys

Issue December 2012 By Marc A. D'Antonio, Esq.

The Massachusetts Bar Association's Public Law Section held its sixth annual conference on Thursday, Nov. 1 at the MBA, 20 West St., Boston. This year's conference delved deeply into the issues surrounding the private lives of public employees. A wide array of speakers examined state law, regulations and employer policies that impose limitations on what public employees can do, both "on" and "off" the clock.

Public Law Section Chair Michele Randazzo began the conference by posing the question, "Where is the line between employee's privacy interests on the one hand, and on the other, government employer interests in efficient operations?" This theme resonated throughout the program with Inspector General Glenn A. Cunha cautioning public employees and those in supervisory roles that, "anything you do, say, text, or e-mail could end up on the front page of the paper." Cunha advised agency leaders that clearly communicating this concept is key to have public employees better understand the risks.

Other conference panelists discussed the limits a public employer can place on the use of social media by its employees, both on and off the job. Robert Fitzgerald from the Lorenzi Group led a very lively discussion on online monitoring.

The conference concluded with a keynote address from the Hon. Timothy S. Hillman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Hillman offered valuable insights on evidentiary issues related to electronic discovery.