Prosecutor says snoooping not a crime

Huntington County Commissioner Jerry Helvie "should have known better" than to read e-mails sent by Huntington County employees, a special prosecutor has ruled, but his actions were not illegal.

Special Prosecuting Attorney ClaraMary Winebrenner, of DeKalb County, submitted her report on Thursday, July 16.
Helvie, who continues to serve as a county commissioner, admitted that he had asked Mike Snelling, then the county's geographic information systems director, to look through the e-mail accounts of two county employees in November 2008. Snelling looked through those accounts, belonging to commissioners' secretary Kim Heaston and County Coroner Leon Hurlburt. He also read the e-mails of 13 other county employees, county officials said at the time. Snelling was first suspended and later fired for his actions.

Winebrenner was asked to investigate the legality of Helvie's actions and said last week that no criminal charges would be filed against Helvie.

"Although the behavior was rude and a breach of common decency, it does not appear to be illegal," Winebrenner says in her ruling. "By analogy, their behavior was the equivalent of searching a co-worker's desk without permission ...

"They should have known better, and they may face civil liability but not criminal penalties for their untoward conduct."