Hit & Run

Senior Commerce Official Saw Nothing Wrong With Bringing Home Seven Government Computers for Her Kids to Watch Porn On

She's still working for the federal agency, obviously.

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Yutaka Tsutano/Flickr

An unnamed senior official with the U.S. Commerce Department took home at least seven government computers that she rarely used for business, instead letting her children use them to do things like watch porn and download "racially offensive materials," according to an investigation from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Commerce Department. The OIG also found evidence she falsified her time records and attempted to retaliate against an employee she believed helped with the investigation. 

The OIG was tipped off by a whistleblower alleging that a senior official "engaged in a number of acts constituting  waste of government resources and/or fraud," according to the office's report, which uses feminine pronouns "for all individuals in this report to protect their identity." Apparently, bringing home two desktop computers, three laptops, and at least two iPad tablets didn't raise any red flags in her department. 

After an investigation, the OIG determined that: 

… Senior Official misused government computer equipment, including permitting members of her household to access and use such equipment, which resulted in inappropriate use of such equipment to view and/or store pornographic, sexually suggestive, and racially offensive materials.

Additionally, the investigation uncovered that, for a period of approximately six months, Senior Official maintained no less than seven government-issued computer resources at her private residence, including two desktop computers, three laptop computers, and at least two iPad tablets, suggesting she was, at a minimum, indifferent to her obligation to conserve government property and resources.  

She also stored thousands of personal photographs on the devices and had installed various gaming software. The employee told OIG she didn't think she was doing anyting wrong, as "outside of a work capacity, which is outside of telework time, or other time that I'm working … there's no policy specific to personal use outside of government time." When asked whether she found it appropriate to access and download porn on a government-owned computer, she said wasn't aware her children were doing that but also didn't think doing so was "anything inappropriate" based on what she knows about Commerce department policy. 

Investigators also found that one the tablets taken home "appeared to have been remotely erased," as well as "credible evidence that Senior Official's belief that one of her subordinates cooperated with the OIG's investigation was a significant factor in Senior Official's proposal to take disciplinary action against the subordinate." Evidence also cast "doubt on Senior Official's time and attendance claims. For example, on at least one occasion in July 2014, Senior Official claimed a full eight-hour day of telework when, in fact, the evidence suggests she likely worked for a substantially shorter period of time that day— as little as twenty minutes." 

The OIG can merely recommend action. Its tepid conclusion: "the Commerce Department "should consider taking appropriate administrative action with respect to Senior Official" and "the office that issued government-owned computer devices to Senior Official should evaluate and make appropriate changes to its policies concerning requests for government owned equipment to be used at home, as well as evaluate its personal property record keeping." Commerce spokeswoman Areaka Foye-McFadden said in a statement: that the agency takes the allegations and the OIG's recommendations seriously and is "in the process of evaluating all appropriate action."