What does the EP do about an offensive e-mail? Delete it from staff inboxes remotely

As covered by England Expects (in French, e-mail now removed) and Guido Fawkes (in English), the European Parliament has been full of gossip this week as a result of a remarkable resignation e-mail from a member of staff that was copied to all 5000 or so people on the European Parliament’s main e-mail distribution list. As can be read in Guido’s post, the e-mail was written to the Secretary General of the European Parliament Klaus Welle, and Freddy Drexler, Welle’s Head of Cabinet (basically chief of staff). In short this is directed to the very top of the administration.

So this morning – two days after the e-mail was published – what do the top brass do?

I’m told by a source within the European Parliament that the offending e-mail has been deleted from the Inboxes of all staff overnight, and even deleted from folders if staff had chosen to file the message. They have even put in place a crude filter to stop the e-mail being forwarded – messages entitled “ma démission à cause de tout ce qui se passe au PE” do not get sent out.

I must stress that my source is a member of staff, not a Member of the European Parliament. But IT services of the European Parliament entering mailboxes and deleting messages sets a very dangerous precedent.

Secondly, this is precisely how not to handle an internal communications crisis – the very act of e-mail deletion prompts a further round of intrigue and outrage, which is – you would think – precisely the last thing Welle and the EP needs just now.

Thirdly, all of this is simply too late – I had been forwarded the original e-mail in a matter of hours after its publishing, and so too will dozens of people in the Brussels bubble. The cat is out of the bag so to speak (multi-lingual pun intended).

Last, this reaction also gives the impression of a cover up and – with rumours of unfair promotion in the EP staff having been around for years – that’s precisely the wrong way forward. These matters need to be investigated soberly and thoroughly. Time for Jerzy Buzek to step in?

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  1. Matt Wardman

    Hello again Jon 🙂


    > It would be great if the “blogosphere” could show some similar restraint. After all, this form of mud-slinging rather smack like News of the World & Co….

    It seems to me that an open press and blogosphere reporting on possible corruption seems to be an excellent thing.

    More shame on those that have played patsy.

    If it’s untrue then it can be rebutted. If they don’t want misdeeds reported, then they shouldn’t do it. It’s not difficult !

  2. cute

    @ Bruno: qui s’excuse s’accuse

  3. Euro Parliament “sex for favours” emails remotely deleted from inboxes | Political Scrapbook

    […] official of accepting sexual favours in exchange for promotions.But, as the blogger Jon Worth reports, copies of the email have been mysteriously disappearing:“I’m told by a source within the […]

  4. Bruno

    @Jon I think the EP had to do something about a highly defamatory email, in terms of people named in it who were accused of corruption, getting promoted without concours in return for sexxula favours
    Also, arguably, they have some duty to an ill member of staff who may not have been in her right mind when she sent the message
    For me, the fact that the EP were able to say that the specific allegations about the promotions of three female officials in breach of the rules were not true completely clinched it.
    That is NOT to say that there are not problems with the EP, cabinet contracts and the strange relationships between parliamentary secretariats and political groups
    I just don’t think this email highlighted real problems and based on the investigating I did (talking a fair few people close to it), I’m personally happy I didn’t write about it

  5. polvic

    @ Bruno. Where I come from they say: “from a child and a mad person one hears only the truth”. The whole
    The email although suspiciosly vulgar in its tone says what everybody is wispering behing close doors but don’t have the guts to spit it out: in order to make a carrer in the EP you have to eithere be a political lythch or to slip with your boss. So sad and I am glad it’s out in the open, hope more people will speak out.

  6. Jon

    @Fritz – a recall function is different from the IT services going and deleting the mail across the board and preventing it being forwarded! As for the below the belt comment about blogosphere and restraint etc. – tell me what in the piece above I should not have written, apart from the pun line perhaps.

    @Bruno – if the person has serious mental illness then why is security so lax so as to allow this person back into the office to send something like this? And if the person has developed this illness while working at the highest levels of the EP administration they would not be the first person in the EP to have health problems due to the work environment.

    The basic issue here – with this e-mail and everything before it – is that there are ongoing concerns and allegations of how staff management and promotion in the European Parliament works. As @Objetivo Europa and @Anne say, the European Parliament needs to show it is setting the very highest standards, and I fear this is not the case, regardless of the allegations in this particular e-mail.

  7. Bruno

    There are a lot of problems with the email:
    The sender is ill, off work for three months and has just been hospitalised for a “serious mental illness”
    The claims – which are very inconsistent in terms of longstanding gossip over the sexuality of people involved – are highly defamatory and include claims (about children of officials) that are wrong/impossible
    I checked it out over 24 hours or so earlier this week and was told that all the contracts/staff questioned (including an AD grade) were above board

  8. Anne

    One could hope that the EP would start looking into their own staffing practices and strive to be as fair and transparent as they are demanding the other EU institutions to be.

  9. Fritz

    The offensive mail had been sent from the official (not personal) account of the Questors’ Secretariat. You all have a “recall” function in your mail software. Considering the criminal abuse of an official mail account, involving the denigration of 3rd persons, it is quite obvious that the holder of this account uses the said tool. The director general for human ressources sent an explanatory mail to the EP staff this morning. It should also go without saying that the press does not jump onto an offensive private text of such low language. It would be great if the “blogosphere” could show some similar restraint. After all, this form of mud-slinging rather smack like News of the World & Co….

  10. Objetivo Europa

    I think more important than the form is the substance. Allegations of unfair promotion within EP staff must be investigated at the top level of the administration. Magouilles at the EP is not something new.

  11. Martin Keegan

    To be fair to the European Parliament, a lot of big organisations would and do behave this way.

  12. Annon

    What I find more disturbing than the IT problem and the legality of it is the press cover up.
    The story when out on three news websites in the afternoon rfi.fr, france-info.com and another around 15h today.
    At this time all links have been taken down…

  13. Craig Willy

    Wow. Just wow.

  14. Jon

    They should have just left the e-mail. People will be now searching for it even more… It’s like when the radio bans a particular song – it makes people look for it even more.

    The press isn’t covering it because – in Brussels – they don’t ever do anything that really digs up dirt about the EU institutions. This would be a great story for Entre Nous in European Voice, but you don’t bite the hand that feeds you, do you. The only Brussels press (in English) that is different is EUObserver, but they don’t trade in scandal.

  15. Macarena

    Damm! I did not receive the mail 🙂 lucky me?
    I fully agree with you that is not the way of handling an internal crisis. But what do you propose? I mean, what the EP should have done instead? I don’t see much solutions….
    At least, the media didn’t say much about it….