By now we all know that emails sent from a work account are the property of our employers, and our employers can legally read them if they choose.
But most of us (admit it) go right on sending personal emails from work anyway.
If those emails are along the lines of “Check out this adorable video of a kitten!!!” you’re probably OK. But if they include lines like “I can’t get you out of my mind. I am unbelievably horny,” you may find yourself in trouble.
As did Nancy Sebring. On July 1 she was supposed to start a new job as superintendent of Omaha public Schools in Nebraska, overseeing the education of some 46,000 students and managing a staff of 7,000. But emails she’d sent from her previous job, running the Des Moines public schools in Iowa, wound up costing her the Omaha job.
The Des Moines Register and The Omaha World-Herald obtained the emails through an open-records request to the Des Moines School Board. The name of her correspondent is blanked out, but it’s clear he’s a lover and not her husband. The emails veer from pedestrian to poignant to pornographic.
“Right now I’m thinking about every inch of your body,” is one of the tamer entries.
On March 30 Sebring wrote to her lover about a gift basket left in her hotel room by the Omaha School District. It included a baseball cap emblazoned “with a large, red letter “‘O.’”
“I thought it was ironic,” she writes, “kind of like my own personal ‘Scarlet Letter.’ Do you think someone knows what we have been up to?”
Hours after the emails appeared online last Saturday, Sebring offered her resignation. Before the day was over, the Omaha School Board had accepted it.
Sebring seems as surprised as anyone by her own lack of judgment. She told The Des Moines Register, “I tell my staff that they should treat any emails (they write) as a public communication. I don’t know why I didn’t do the same.”
“This was a situation involving two lonely people,” she told The Register. Two lonely people and, now, the whole world.