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Weston Had It Coming 

But County policy oversteps its bounds

Dear Boomer With Attitude: Was it right for the County to force Park and Rec director Wayne Weston to resign because he forwarded some stupid e-mails?

-- A Little Nervous

Dear Little: Yes, but ... Yes, because Weston forwarded racy and racist e-mails to people who didn't want to receive them, despite having been warned about doing that very thing four years ago. But ... the County is wrong to bar any employees from ever sending that type of e-mail under any circumstances. If Weston had forwarded the e-mails, no matter how offensive they were, to only a select group of people that he knew wouldn't mind, then I say that shouldn't be the County's, or anyone else's, business.

The County's policy, which is similar to many US corporations' rules, sensibly forbids employees from using their county e-mail accounts to do things such as promote their Amway business, send chain letters or spam, or threaten or harass others. Those kinds of rules are needed and help keep an office functioning well (or at least as well as a government office can function). The trouble, I feel, is that the policy also bars sending messages that contain anything derogatory or sexually explicit under any circumstances, even to people whom the employee is certain wouldn't mind receiving them.

The way I see it, if you're a good employee who gets the job done -- not a slacker who spends too much time online, swapping jokes -- and you send a message to a friend, calling your supervisor a jerk; or if you receive, as Weston did, a photo-shopped picture of Hillary Clinton with a penis -- but unlike Weston, you only forward it to people you know will think it's funny -- then, no matter how offensive anyone else thinks the image is (and for the record, I find it pretty damned rank), it's no one else's business. The simple and sublime act of minding one's own business is not a popular one these days, and that's a shame, because it's led to the culture of busybodies we're living in.

Where you or I might see e-mail exchanges between productive employees as a freedom of expression issue, most bureaucrats and corporate bigwigs see a situation they need to have under their thumbs. So, as we saw County Manager Harry Jones and his underlings do last week, they get all puffed up and start slinging threats around the office - no doubt thinking all the while that they're "improving morale."

So, yes, Wayne Weston did go over the line by sending his stupid e-mails to people who didn't want them. But the County, and for that matter, most US businesses, need to know when they are stepping over the line in restricting employees' communications.

Dear BWA: Shouldn't City Council have gone along with the proposed land swap deal for a baseball stadium uptown?

-- Heavy Hitter

Dear Heavy: Council members may still agree to the deal -- there's nothing they love more than pleasing uptown businessmen -- but at last week's meeting, they were overwhelmed with too much information, poorly presented, to make anything resembling an informed decision. I'm a big baseball fan and would love to see the Knights move uptown, but I don't think the proposed plan is a good one. If all the necessary land swaps occurred, and the various governmental bodies gave their OK, the city would indeed wind up with a pretty cool baseball stadium uptown, and CMS would get better office space. But, as I've written here before, we would also wind up with a smaller park than has been planned for the area, and Marshall Park would be gone. Charlotte already has less green space uptown than almost any other American city its size, and further reducing that parks acreage is simply a bad idea. Other results of Smith's proposal would include some nice, but maybe a-little-too-cozy profits for Wachovia and Mass Mutual, especially considering that the city would have to spend nearly $8 million at a time when Council is having to raise taxes just to meet basic needs.

I also agree with the Observer's position that the County should be more involved in the baseball stadium process since the County is ostensibly in charge of parks and recreation. Duh. There are other areas outside the I-277 loop that would be great sites for an uptown baseball stadium, including Southend and the current Memorial Stadium location. Those sites should be seriously considered before Council agrees, as usual, to do its uptown-business masters' will.

Dear BWA: Will the NC legislature's passage of a law that makes it illegal for anyone under 21 to consume alcohol have a significant effect on drunk driving in the state?

-- Bottle Baby

Dear Bottle: Of course not. No one is going to keep college students from drinking, no matter how many laws are passed. Everyone knows this, but legislators are addicted to making meaningless gestures, and this was simply another one.

To contact John Grooms, e-mail him at john.grooms@creativeloafing.com.

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