Thursday, December 3, 2015
Whose emails: Carmelo's or the HHA's?
That will be decided at tomorrow's motion hearing at Hudson County Superior Court.
To recap, former HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia had deleted his emails on his hard drive prior to his departure from the HHA. That didn't 'erase' them from existence; all emails were recoverable on the HHA's email server- at least 1,000 of them are between Garcia and his personal attorney, Louis Zayas; some of the Garcia-Zayas emails include third parties.
To further complicate matters, Zayas is representing Garcia in a lawsuit which is being defended by the HHA,- Defendants include (3) current and former HHA Commissioners.
So, erring on the side of caution, the HHA's attorney brought this matter of the 1,000 Garcia-Zayas emails before the court before using them in the litigation or releasing them to be OPRAed. So...
Tomorrow the court will decide whether Garcia's emails, conveyed on HHA servers, are protected by attorney client privilege.
If the court rules attorney client privilege is preserved, the emails are not public record nor can they be used by the Mayor, her husband, nor the HHA Commissioners in their defense against Plaintiff Garcia.
What may be the most important document before the court was drafted by HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia and signed on March 9, 2012: the Hoboken Housing Authority Employee Handbook.
The HHA Employee Handbook is a 34-page manual of personnel policy; rights, obligations, rules and regulations. All employees of the Hoboken Housing Authority, including Executive Director Garcia, are subject to its rules.
Pages 23, 24 and 25 of the Employee Handbook are the HHA's "Systems Privacy" policy with respect to email, voice mail, computer and Internet usage, posted in full:
In 2012, HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia stripped all presumption any right to privacy, and control over disclosure from employees, "reserv[ing] the right for the HHA to access and disclose all messages sent over its system without regard to content.... "E-mail and voicemail messages, to the extent these systems are utilized, are the HHA's records."
GA's no lawyer, but the HHA Employee Handbook signed and distributed by Executive Director Carmelo Garcia seems clear on the controlling authority over its own records.