The message to employees from the Canadian provincial government of British Columbia is that naughty emails sent or forwarded over government email networks will not be tolerated, and there have been a number of dismissals to reinforce the warning.
One dismissed employee who is fighting back with a law suit is Edward James Rampone, the former manager of casino investigations for the province, who has filed a wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the Ministry of Housing and Social Development, which is responsible for gaming in the province.
Rampone (58) was fired by the ministry last April for "inappropriate and offensive" non-work related e-mails sent to him using the government e-mail system. But Rampone claims that he only received the emails and denies "having ever forwarded, sent, distributed or done anything other than deleted e-mails which I may have received and deemed to be inappropriate."
Rampone goes further, claiming that his former boss and longtime associate, Larry Vander Graaf, the executive director of the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, received a similar offensive e-mail about three years ago titled Find the Duck, which depicted a large breasted young woman, nude from the waist up, with several ducks in the background.
He claims Vander Graaf forwarded the e-mail to unintended recipients in the solicitor-general's ministry and received a verbal reprimand for his actions.
"The 'find the duck' phrase became subject of numerous subsequent jokes around the office in a manner which made light of the severity of the misconduct," says a document filed in support of Rampone's lawsuit.
"This incident in itself was significant in illustrating the tolerance for inappropriate e-mails by (the) senior executive."
Rampone took to the law courts after having his first appeal against dismissal turned down by the B.C. Public Service Agency.
The BC provincial government has taken disciplinary action against 49 public servants for allegedly sending inappropriate jokes and other racy material over the work e-mail system, reports the Vancouver Sun newspaper.
Ten employees were fired and 39 were disciplined across three ministries after an investigation began in late 2008 with a review of government liquor inspectors. The Sun reported in April that four had been fired and another 13 had been disciplined, reportedly for sending inappropriate jokes and pornography by e-mail.
Another three employees in the housing ministry, whose work was related to gambling and casinos, were also fired and another 15 were disciplined.