Perhaps Idaho politicians and government workers just shouldn't be allowed near the Internet.

Steve Rule, commissioner for Canyon County, was criticized earlier this month for forwarding an email message, comparing Michelle Obama to a black widow spider, to 26 people, many of them at Canyon County government email accounts. To add insult to injury, while he had received the original email at a personal account, he forwarded it from his official Canyon County email address.

Making matters worse, Rule apparently didn't violate any laws in doing so, according to the Idaho Statesman. "Canyon County has an e-mail policy that states county e-mail accounts "are to be used for job-related communications only," but that policy applies only to county employees, not to elected officials, county spokeswoman Angie Sillonis said. Commissioners and other elected officials must abide by state code, but Sillonis said she could find no state law that prohibited an action such as the e-mail forwarded by Rule."

The message in question compared Michelle Obama, in her black-and-red dress at President-elect Barack Obama's acceptance speech, to a black widow spider, which features a red hourglass on its belly.

Sillonis relayed a message from Rule saying in the future he would not use a county computer to forward emails not directly related to county business.

In comparison, the head of the tourism agency for the state of Hawaii recently resigned after coming under similar criticism -- led by its governor -- for sending unspecified racist and sexist email messages from his government computer.

Rule was also nominated as a "worst person" by Keith Olbermann.

Canyon County is also the governmental entity that kept computer applications manager Marc Young on paid administrative leave for more than a year -- at a cost of more than $60,000 -- when he was accused of possessing child pornography on county computers. Young -- incidentally, the son of the county prosecutor at the time -- eventually pleaded guilty to one charge. The county also limited further paid leaves to up to 90 days.

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I'm sure I've never met Canyon County Commissioner Rule, so I can't weigh in on what his intentions might have been, however, he did not exercise good judgment in this instance. It is inappropriate for a public official to use tools / conveniences afforded to them as a result of their public position to participate in partisan politics. More importantly, it is time for all politicians to pay particular attention to what I hope is a paradigm shift in politics. At the very least, it appears the public has rejected divisive politics, if only for now. Right now, right here, we all need to drop the trivial differences and come together as a nation. We're facing some serious issues at all levels of government & these petty partisan acts by elected officials are inappropriate. Having said that, I didn't like the dress, either.

Very bad judgement on his part. I can understand him sending it from his personal email and not getting in trouble but government??!?!

ha! yes, I hated the dress, too, but sartorial questions aside, it's the forwarding it from his government account -- in fact, taking specific action in *order* to forward it from his government account -- that I have a problem with, regardless of his political views. And how interesting that there's apparently no law preventing it. Let's hope the Idaho legislature takes that up this session.

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