The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 11, 2012
Updated: California state employee posts nearly 5,000 online comments from work

Editor's note, 1:02 p.m.: This post has been updated with more information about disciplinary action taken and recommended against the employee who is the focus of the story and his supervisor.

A California Department of Education employee posted approximately 4,900 comments on The Sacramento Bee's website between December 2010 and December 2011, according to a state report released this morning that details several lapses, abuses and illegal acts by state workers and agencies.

Investigators found that the education employee posted comments on sacbee.com 195 days of the 208 days he was at work, averaging about 25 comments per day. On his most active day he wrote 70 comments during business hours.

Quizzed by auditors, the unnamed employee offered several explanations.

First, he said, his online postings were limited to his break times. Auditors looked at online comment records and found otherwise.

Then the employee said his commenting activity fulfilled his job obligation to follow educational technology news. Auditors knocked that down, too: "Although the employee's duty statement allocated 15 percent of his time to technical research and analysis, it made no mention of using state time to post public commentary regarding the results of his research."

Finally, the serial commenter said that for most of 2011 he had a lot of time on his hands because he didn't have any work to do, despite asking for more.

Federal government changes had indeed lightened the employee's workload, a supervisor confirmed, but management "had been able to find other projects to fill approximately 80 percent of the employee's time."

Auditors reported that education took "some informal action against the employee as a result of this investigation" and nothing more. The employee continued to use state resources to post comments.

The report recommends blocking the employee's computer from accessing sacbee.com for a "specified period," and taking "appropriate corrective action" against the serial commenter for misusing state resources and against his supervisor for allowing it to happen.

Auditors also found that the employee misused state time and equipment for his private contracting business during work hours.

Other highlights of the State Auditor's report covering investigations completed between April 2011 and June 2012 (summarized here and embedded below):

• A Franchise Tax Board employee, an Office of the Secretary of State employee and a courier service owner who were convicted of bribery and ordered to pay the agencies more than $227,000 in restitution.

• A former Employment Development Department accounting technician and two accomplices who committed mail fraud by fraudulently redirecting nearly $93,000 of unemployment benefits to the two accomplices.

• The California State Athletic Commission's overpayment of a total of $118,650 to 18 athletic inspectors because it incorrectly paid them at overtime instead of hourly straight-time rate over a two-year span.

• A Department of Fish and Game supervisor's inappropriate requirement that a farmer leasing land from the state pay more than $53,000 to third-party vendors for department expenses instead of making agreed-upon land repairs and improvements. The Fish and Game employee also required the leasee provide him with $5,000 in Home Depot gift cards that the supervisor couldn't prove were used for state purposes.

• A manager with California Correctional Health Care Services improperly paid $55,000 in travel benefits to 23 employees that included commuting costs and expenses incurred near their residences and workplace.

121211 State Employee Audit

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.



About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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