In Maine government, porn gets you fired

0

LEWISTON — Maine has a simple policy when it comes to workers who get caught looking at pornography on state computers: They’re fired.

“It’s not appropriate and we terminate them. That’s it,” said Alicia Kellogg, director of Maine’s Bureau of Human Resources, which oversees all executive branch employees. “It is pretty straightforward. There are some things there is just zero tolerance for and this is one.”

There was no such policy at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission where a recent government oversight report showed 28 workers had used SEC computers to view pornography.

Eight of those employees resigned their positions and six were suspended, but none has been fired, the agency told The Washington Post.

Advertisement

In Maine, some state employees have gone to porn sites on their work computers, sometimes during work time and sometimes after hours, “but we respond the same,” Kellogg said, adding that it’s rare for cases to come to her attention because they are seldom appealed.

“I did work for six years in human resources at the Department of Transportation and I know that in those six years, we probably had three or four cases, and they were fired,” Kellogg said. Co-workers are usually the ones to tip off supervisors about the inappropriate behavior, she said.

Cases involving child pornography are referred to the Maine Office of the Attorney General, she said.

Don Williams, personnel officer at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the state’s largest agency, said he sees a couple of cases a year of workers visiting “sexually explicit” Web sites.

“Some of it is clearly inappropriate Web site visitation but isn’t necessarily pornographic,” he said.

Dick Thompson, the executive branch’s chief information officer, said he is in charge of all 11,000 state laptops, computers and other electronic devices.

“It creates a different environment, having the office of Information Technology overseeing the machines,” he said. “People know that a third party is going to be looking at it and it helps put caution into those folks who need to have it.”

Filters are in place for the “most popular” sites and only a few employees have been caught in recent years, according to state officials.

“We do have some protection,” Thompson said. “We have a list of the more common sites and we block those (sites) at our firewall, and we obtain those from an organization called (the National Institute of Standards and Technology). That is not 100 percent effective, obviously, but it certainly helps deter activity.”

Other ways of filtering, such as blocking certain word searches, can prevent appropriate material from getting through, Thompson said, which is why the state doesn’t operate with that kind of system.

“It’s a challenge for us,” he said. “We do have policies about appropriate use and those are enforced.”

Thompson said his office occasionally gets a request from the Human Resources Department to analyze a device, which happened six times last year.

“But that could be for any reason that somebody needed particular information about the use of the device, not just visiting a (pornography) site,” he said.

He said he was disappointed in the federal officials who were spending work time looking at pornography.

“They are supposedly intelligent people and they should know better,” he said. “People who are aware (of what’s appropriate) use these things for the right thing and it’s all about getting a job done.”

rmetzler@sunjournal.com

Advertisement
SHARE