Agency chief warns of discpline if abuse
By Peter Bacque
RICHMOND, VA. – An internal investigation at the Virginia
Department of Transportation has turned up as many as 44 employees
wasting taxpayer-paid work time on the Internet.
"If there is any . . . confirmed additional abuse,
we will discipline those individuals consistent with the discipline
that we issued back in 2002," state Transportation Commissioner
Philip Shucet said yesterday.
The Internet browsing took in a range of Web sites, including
some devoted to shopping, sports and airlines, and "although
limited, it also did include some sexually explicit sites,"
Five VDOT computers were used to visit porn sites, he said.
In 2002, VDOT fired or suspended for two weeks without pay
86 workers for misuse of their Internet access on workplace
Authorities said that action was the largest mass disciplining
of state employees in Virginia government history.
Shucet has directed VDOT managers to check the latest audit's
findings in their offices to confirm the infractions and give
employees a chance to defend themselves.
The commissioner told VDOT managers to complete those checks
by Friday and report how they disciplined workers who they
confirmed had abused their Internet access.
Since managers are responsible for overseeing their employees'
work, Shucet said he might also want to have earnest chats
with managers involved in the latest Internet imbroglio.
The $3.7 billion VDOT has about 8,000 computers and more
than 10,200 employees.
In this investigation, department auditors first focused
on VDOT computers showing 10,000 or more Web site hits a day,
the agency said.
Workers will be disciplined for spending two hours or more
on one day viewing Web sites that were not related to their
work, VDOT said.
The state permits employees to make incidental, occasional
personal use of government computers, but only if that use
does not interfere with performing their work.
Virginia's policy on Internet use also forbids government
employees to view pornography sites with state computers.
Penalties for those making unauthorized use of their taxpayer-supplied
computers range from two weeks' suspension without pay to
loss of their jobs.
Conducted July 21-27, the computer-abuse sweep rounded up
about half the number of VDOT workers caught in a similar
investigation made public 16 months ago.
"The results are better than in 2002," VDOT spokeswoman
Tamara Neale said, "but we would prefer zero abuse."
VDOT discovered the new Internet access issue during what
Shucet described as a "follow-up audit that we always
planned on doing."
The VDOT inspector general's office has sent reports of
the apparent abuse to the affected transportation districts
and staff divisions so managers can review the results and
"make sure there weren't any anomalies," Shucet
After the 2002 investigation, VDOT fired 15 workers and
two resigned for using their computer access to look at pornography.
VDOT suspended another 61 for two weeks without pay for
spending two hours or more in a day looking at Web sites unrelated
to their work.
VDOT also fired eight contract workers for excessive Internet
use in the 2002 crackdown.