9 D.C. Workers Fired For Looking at Porn
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Nine D.C. government employees are being fired for viewing pornography on their work computers, including three who looked at inappropriate sexual images an average of about 200 times per work day in 2007, city officials said yesterday.
Each of the nine employees clicked on porn sites more than 19,000 times last year, according to the results of an internal investigation of 10,000 government computers, officials said. Three visited such sites more than 39,000 times apiece last year, the investigation found.
Thirty-two other employees who visited porn sites more than 2,000 times will receive letters of reprimand or suspensions.
"This is not just egregious behavior, it's reprehensible," Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said at a news conference at which he and several deputies announced the firings.
Administration officials said the employees, who were not identified because of privacy laws, were notified yesterday of their terminations or suspensions, but many are unionized and have the right to appeal.
The investigation was launched late last month after D.C. Chief Technology Officer Vivek Kundra received a tip from an employee in the Office of Property Management, officials said. Kundra then conducted a review of the 10,000 city computers -- about one-third of the government's total -- that contained porn-monitoring software called WebSense, which had been installed several years ago.
The investigation uncovered no evidence of employees looking at child porn, officials said. The nine employees being fired work for four agencies: property management, contracting and procurement, child and family services, and the attorney general's office. Fourteen other agencies had employees who had viewed porn more than 10 times per day, officials said.
Since 1999, the city has had a policy that bars employees from looking at porn, but there was little ability to enforce it, Kundra said. This month, Kundra's office installed a tougher version of WebSense software that blocks porn on all 30,000 city computers and will redirect employees from inappropriate sites. That software cost $142,000, Kundra said.
City Administrator Dan Tangherlini said WebSense is a standard government tool used by many cities to monitor and prevent employee access to pornography. Officials said they did not seek to determine whether employees were using government computers to engage in any other inappropriate Internet activity, such as online gambling, primarily because they wanted to contain the investigation to make it manageable.
Kundra said investigators confiscated the computers of the nine employees who will be fired and conducted a digital forensic analysis to ensure that those employees were the ones who had accessed the porn.
By tracking each employee's Internet protocol address, officials were able to determine with "100 percent certainty" that those employees were the ones involved, he said.