A rule change affects public employees using public property for personal use. According to Utah State Code 76-8-402(2), “It is unlawful for a public servant to: appropriate… public property to the public servant’s own use or benefit…” The code goes on to explain that if employees use government property for their own personal tasks, they can be charged with a second-degree felony.
However, a change authorized by Commissioner Todd E. Kiser states, “A public servant is not guilty of a violation of Utah Code section 76-8-402 for authorized personal use of public property.” As a result, public employees are now allowed to use public property for personal use as long as it is authorized. This recent policy change also states that, “This policy does not grant to employees or create an inherent right to use government resources, and one should not be inferred. The privilege to use public property for personal purposes may be limited or revoked at any time by an appropriate supervisor in the employee’s organizational chain of command. Employees do not have a right to nor should they have an expectation of privacy while using government resources at any time… Employees who wish for their personal activities to be private should not conduct such activities using public property.”
Another rule to be aware of in relation to this slight policy change is the Hatch Act. This federally mandated law has not changed. It states, “No officer or employee in career service may engage in any political activity during the hours of employment” Therefore, even if public employees are given authorization to make calls or use public electronic devices, they cannot use public property (including time on the job) for political activity. This even includes sharing political posts on social media or doing any type of work to raise funds or promote a political office.
In an age where so much of our life is surrounded by electronics, instant communication and more, it is a nice benefit that the state is now allowing employees to operate public property for personal use. However, as the rule states, make sure that you have the proper authorization from your supervisor before you use any government property for personal use and ensure you are not participating in any political activity while you do so.