City employees suspended after investigation finds thousands of hours wasted online

MONTESANO, Wash. – Three employees of the City of Montesano have been suspended without pay after an investigation of their computers found inappropriate images, and thousands of hours wasted surfing the internet. Montesano Mayor Ken Estes said at their council meeting this week “I believe there has been a culture of time wasting, definitely caused by poor supervision, a lack of respect for public property, and an unconcern for public resources. I sincerely hope this culture is broken, that employees have learned from this experience, and now look forward to regaining the public’s trust.”
After confiscating eight computers from their Public Works department last summer, a forensic investigator uncovered about 8,000 hours of personal use over the past five years that included sexual content, fishing, sports, and car websites. The computers have been turned over to the Washington State Patrol to determine if any felony laws were broken.
All three employees told Mayor Estes that they were never told they couldn’t use the computers in that way, and that their previous manager had often participated. Estes noted that while a computer policy has been in place since 1997, there was no requirement to show that an employee had read it.   
Two employees were suspended for 5 days while another was suspended for 10, all three have filed grievances with their union over the suspension. Estes estimates arbitration over the suspensions will cost the city another $40,000.