- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2002

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner said he would not call for further investigations of state agencies in light of the scandal involving Department of Transportation employees who used state computers to search for porn on the Internet.
"I expect the managers of state agencies to manage," Mr. Warner, a Democrat, said yesterday in a telephone interview. "I'm confident with the situation at VDOT that the other agencies are monitoring the amount of non-work-related sites employees are visiting."
There are 52,190 state employees in 63 executive agencies across the state who have access to computers and the Internet at work.
Mr. Warner said he doesn't believe the scandal would affect the prospects for voter approval of the transportation referendums in November, for which he has campaigned extensively during his first year in office.
"It would be ludicrous" for anyone to take this issue and see it as a reason for opposition to the referendums, Mr. Warner said.
However, opponents of the referendums which will ask voters in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads whether they want to raise their sales tax to fund transportation initiatives in their respective regions say that this latest revelation is just another example of how the state needs to review its spending habits before asking residents for more money.
"Regardless of how they were spending their time, it is clear that the state has a lot of cleaning up to do before it comes to us to ask for more money," said James Parmelee, chairman of NorthernVirginiaGOP.com, a leading organization opposed to the tax increase.
VDOT Commissioner Philip A. Shucet also said the two issues are not related.
"I don't think this has anything to do with the referendum," he said. "And that would be a pretty poor excuse to use to try to influence a vote."
Last week, Mr. Shucet fired 17 employees in VDOT offices across the state for spending time on state-issued computers surfing Internet pornography sites. Their positions will not be filled because, Mr. Shucet said, if they had that much free time, then the jobs weren't needed. A spokeswoman for VDOT estimated that the reduction in salaries and benefits would save the agency "hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Additionally, Mr. Shucet reprimanded 61 other employees for viewing non-offensive Web sites such as AOL, ESPN and EBay. Those employees were suspended for two weeks without pay.
VDOT monitored all 10,200 department workers' computers during an internal audit the week of April 8. The audit was conducted because Mr. Shucet's office had been contacted about an employee improperly using a computer. That employee resigned before the audit began, but the agency decided to continue the audit anyway.
During the audit, it was determined there was an unusually high volume of traffic on 93 sites. Mr. Shucet said all of the offenders who viewed pornographic sites at taxpayer expense were men, and were in managerial, midlevel and administrative positions.
State Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore was notified of the violations. A spokesman for Mr. Kilgore said that the office has not received word from other agencies about similar violations in their departments.
Diane Horvath, director of legal and legislative services for the Virginia Department of Information Technology, said there is no uniform blocking device within the state government to control what state employees do on the Internet. Some agencies have fire walls; others have pop-up warnings that appear when an employee logs on to the system.
"Each agency is pretty much on their own to do that," Ms. Horvath said. "It's an example of how things happen when it's all decentralized."
The state does have the right to monitor what employees are doing on their computers. In 1996, Virginia passed a state law barring more than 100,000 state workers including professors, librarians and researchers at state-supported colleges and universities from viewing sexually explicit material on office computers.
The law was challenged and upheld when the U.S. Supreme Court let stand an 8-4 decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appealsaffirming the law last year.


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