MILTON, Ga. — Milton has issued an apology to residents and has reprimanded Councilman Bill Lusk after he used emails solicited by the city for political purposes in his campaign for re-election to District 2, Post 1 on the City Council.
On Oct. 13, Lusk sent out an email inviting Milton residents to attend his campaign event. The city has said that 267 of those email addresses were improperly used because they were collected by the city for non-political purposes.
The emails in question were gathered by the city for the Milton Veterans Memorial Markers organization. The organization was created to support Lusk's efforts after he began creating the memorial crosses following the city's incorporation.The city-solicited emails are turned over to the program periodically throughout the year. Lusk remains a "special advisor" to the organization.
Along with Lusk and the organization, the city solicited and gathered email addresses for inclusion in the program. Even after the memorial markers organization gained its nonprofit status in 2013, the city continued to solicit email addresses for those wishing to be included in the annual Memorial Day events.
Those emails were turned over to Lusk.
These addresses were for the “singular purpose” for use with the organization, not political or campaign purposes, City Manager Steve Krokoff said.
In a letter to Lusk, Krokoff said “It has recently come to the attention of the City of Milton that citizen information solicited and collected by the city…has been used for political purposes in the present City of Milton Council election.”
“The use of this citizen information, and specifically the private email addresses, for political purposes was unauthorized,” the letter stated.
Krokoff also directed Lusk to purge the emails from any database used for political purposes and prohibited him from using the emails for “any purpose until further notice or until such time as the City of Milton has completed a thorough review of its policies and procedures relative to its community partners and shared information.”
Speaking to the Milton Herald, Krokoff said these email addresses were gathered properly, and residents were informed that they would be used by a third party, the memorial markers group.
“The emails were received and given in a manner in which they should have been done,” he said. “It was just a matter of whether they were used for their intended purposes.” And use for campaigning was not a proper use, he said.
He was adamant the city protects its residents’ information and there was no breach to its system.
Following the occurrence, Krokoff said the city “could be more explicit with our partners,” to ensure the solicited emails are only used for their intended purpose.
Last Thursday, the city issued a statement apologizing for the incident.
“The City of Milton very much regrets this lapse,” the statement said. “The city is taking the appropriate steps to ensure that this will not be repeated both with this program and going forward with our other community partners.”
Lusk said his use of the emails was “an honest oversight on my part.”
He said after he created the memorial markers program, residents applied to the city for inclusion in the program and those applications were forwarded to him.
Those addresses were included in Lusk’s contact list and Lusk used his “complete contact list to send out invitations to my campaign events.”
“I did not use a city email list,” he said. “I have removed all applicable names from my contact list.”
Laura Bentley, who is challenging Lusk for the District 2, Post 1 seat in the Nov. 7 general election, said Lusk’s use of city-solicited emails was for political and personal gain.
“My opponent violated the community’s trust and privacy,” Bentley said. “The Citizens of Milton expect a higher standard from elected officials.”
“This story has been updated to reflect new information"