In discussing with a state employee the applicability of a rule governing eligibility for a grant program that she administers, I sent an email asking if the rule had any "flexibility" and, at my boss's direction, outlined the unique circumstances of our project.
Today I received an outraged email from said state employee, reaming me out for my "unconscionable act" in "attempting to coerce" her into "ignoring a state rule" and doing "illegal and unethical" stuff.
Huh? To add insult to injury, she copied her email to everybody higher up in her division and her whole department. My boss told me to take the high road, just reply that she read it wrong, I was only asking for her opinion because she's the expert.
In 15 years in zoning/land use, a day didn't go by when I didn't have to tell someone "no" and they asked if there was anything they could do, like apply for a waiver, talk to someone higher up, have it re-evaluated based on circumstances, etc. I never took that to mean that I was being asked to break the law on their behalf.
I think the woman is a freaking nutcase, but she's damaging my reputation and that of my department. I was so floored when I opened that email that I was shaking, I don't think I've ever been so angry about a work issue.
Anybody have any suggestions on this one?