A state agency is reviewing the way it tracks how employees use the Internet after a report concluded that a worker remained undetected for years as he alternately viewed pornographic Web sites and did work for his church.
Among the warning signs examined in hindsight: a March 2007 report that found Jeff Adkins to be among the top Internet users at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, and Adkins’ request in 2006 that he receive a cubicle with more privacy.
The workers’ comp bureau is not alone. The AP reported in December that a state Highway Department employee whose job is to prevent discrimination sent racist and sexist e-mails from his government account.
In 2007, the AP reported that Highway Department employees viewed or downloaded porn and pictures of “pretty girls” several times in state offices and on state-owned computers around Ohio.
Adkins, a full-time state employee whose position was information technology consultant, earned $97,406 annually. He resigned Oct. 30, the day after investigators with the state Inspector General confronted him with the allegations. The suburban Columbus resident could not be reached for comment. He has an unpublished number and did not immediately respond to a letter mailed to his home.
Investigation documents reviewed by The Associated Press show that a technology manager at the workers’ comp bureau suggested the agency might have a problem tracking Internet use.
The manager told investigators: “it appeared to him that they did not have enough staff to adequately monitor Internet usage.”
The agency says it has enough employees but acknowledges the tracking process can be time-consuming.
In response to the Adkins’ discovery, the agency may add a report that lists all Internet sites visited, and not just usage of the Internet, said spokeswoman Melissa Vince.
“If someone uses the Internet a lot, it might not be a sign of abuse,” Vince said. “If we have a list of actual sites visited, that could be telling.”
The agency may also look at ways to automate the process of tracking inappropriate Web surfing, she said.
A list of all sites visited could have helped find Adkins earlier, based on details in the state watchdog’s report issued earlier this month and documents reviewed by the AP.
The agency’s data security supervisor first questioned Adkins in March 2007 after a report showed he was among the agency’s top Internet users.
Adkins explained that a Web site he kept open to his personal e-mail account was likely triggering the activity even when he wasn’t checking his e-mail.
The supervisor let the matter rest until more than a year later. On July 27, 2008, he noticed Adkins had accessed a Web site with an inappropriate name, documents show.
The nature of the site caught information technology officials by surprise.
“I should have asked you about its content before I looked at it,” Thomas Croyle, the agency’s Chief Information Officer, wrote in a July 30 e-mail obtained by the AP. “It is VERY disturbing.”
An investigation led to Adkins’ admission on Oct. 29 that he had been visiting Internet porn sites almost from the time he was hired in 2005, the report said.
Investigators found he spent hours on many days visiting adult sites and downloading videos and pictures.
Adkins’ “conduct would have been identified much sooner had management chose not to ignore weekly internal agency reports which demonstrated excessive internet usage,” the state Inspector General report said.
According to the watchdog’s report, Adkins:
Visited non-work related Web sites, including several that were sexually graphic, for hours at a time. He visited at least one adult site 67 of the 106 days he reported for work between May 5 and Oct. 15.
Opened and stored at least 318 sexually oriented movies, 11 adult audio files and more than 1,200 adult photos.
Sent and received dozens of e-mails connected to his volunteer job as technology director for his church.
Used his work computer to visit Web sites for aspiring writers and spent “excessive amounts of time” sending instant messages, blogging and other writing related to making films, writing church plays and sexually oriented fiction stories.
Adkins told a former co-worker he was addicted to pornography, according to an investigative interview reviewed by the AP.
Adkins requested a cubicle with high walls when he moved from one floor of the agency to another in October 2006. The request was apparently denied. BWC has no written record of such a request and says Adkins’ cubicle had walls of normal height.
Adkins’ immediate supervisor told investigators that he “should have been more suspicious when Adkins asked to have his pod reconfigured,” according to an interview reviewed by the AP.
Although critical of the time it took to catch the employee, the Inspector General credited the bureau’s internal investigators for eventually uncovering the evidence of alleged wrongdoing.
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