The Letter That Brought the Internet Scandal On

From Councilman Yagong:
“…I’ll send you the email that I sent to County workers requesting suggestions to help with our County Budget and processes.
From this request, I received many suggestions from county employees, including allegations that there was Internet abuse by employees during working hours.  I was told that this abuse may be effecting productivity and could be a factor in contributing to over-time cost.  That is why I requested the Web Browsing Report from Data System to determine if the allegations were true or untrue.”
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March 20, 2009

Aloha County Employee,

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your hard work and dedication to public service.  On behalf of the Hawaii County Council, I want to express our deepest appreciation for all that you do in your specific role to help serve the people of our community.

As Chairman of the Hawaii County Council Finance committee, my office is exploring many different avenues to deal with our projected shortfall.  These efforts are being made in concert and agreement with Mayor Kenoi’s stated goal of no employee layoffs to meet our budgetary challenges.  I support Mayor Kenoi in this goal, and we need your help and support to make this happen. Far too many times we do not involve the people that are on the front line that can help us improve our process and operation.

Through this letter, please consider this a sincere invitation for you to get involved in helping our County Administration and Hawaii County Council come up with suggestions and ideas that can positively impact our $31.9 million dollar shortfall.  As you know, this shortfall is a moving target and could possibly loom larger depending on actions at the state legislature as well as county numbers being adjusted at the local level.   Regardless of our fiscal climate, we should always strive for efficient and cost effective government.

As Finance Chair, I welcome you to communicate with my office through several avenues available to you.  Any idea, suggestion, comments, reporting of abuse, or plan that you feel could possibly increase revenues, decrease expenditures, increase productivity, or minimize cost is sincerely welcomed.  Please contact me at any of the following media:

County email: dyagong@co.hawaii.us

My personal email: domyagong@aol.com

Mail to my council address: Councilmember Yagong, 25 Aupuni Street, Hilo Hawaii 96727.

Mail to my personal address: Dominic Yagong, PO Box 875, Honokaa, Hawaii, 96727.

Phone:  808-961-8538 or my cell (808) 936-3412

I understand that some of you may have concerns about expressing ideas or comments regarding the department that you work for.  I will not be sharing any names associated with suggestions, unless personally directed to do so by an employee.  We are in this together, and we will meet these challenges together.

Thank you so much for allowing me to invite you to participate in working to solve our budgetary challenges.

Warmest Aloha,

Dominic Yagong, Councilmember

Internet Scandal… A Fox Watching the Hen House or Burning My Own Readership?

Earlier tonight I posted the email replies that I got from Hawaii County Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida and Councilman Dominic Yagong regarding the County Employee internet scandal.

I have some concerns about this investigation.

I don’t think for one second that they will be able to find evidence of people surfing on their own laptops and networks during county time, even though I know that some do.

And a big concern… Why is the Fox Watching the Hen House on this?  We should have a Private Investigator investigating this… not someone from the county.

In one of his replies to me he states:

I hate to say it Mr. Ashida…. but my blog, as well as others, can  provide more valuable resources to the counties workers then our own newspapers can provide at times.

You shouldn’t hate to say it.  It may be true.  I believe you are proceeding on a false assumption. I never said it was inappropriate to visit and review sites like yours.  In fact, as I stated in my lengthy email to Tiffany Edwards-Hunt and others upon their request, I believe it is the responsibility of County officers to understand, appreciate and be sensitive to the feelings of the public we all serve.  This includes correcting erroneous and uninformed factual assertions made in all forms of publicly available media.

A friend put it to me in an interesting way:

I think this issue could best be put to rest if the County was to have a private agency investigate this issue and provide its feedback to the public. I know cost would be an argument against having a private entity do this investigation, but it would mean much more to the public sector to have an independent ruling than to have a County employee investigate itself.

Besides, if we are talking cost effectiveness isn’t it more cost effective to have county employees engaged in their mission of providing services to us rather than having them look for reasons to read blogs during their working hours and searching for excuses to correct the public in “erroneous and uninformed factual assertions…..?”

foxinhenhouse1

Well whatever comes of this investigation, I hope the readers of my blog that were scared to view it on County time start reading it from at home… or if this thing simmers down… from at work… at least once a day. ;)

But then again… I don’t get paid by visitors… and I can’t really say that the county workers are missing anything important… Other then everything the local papers seem to forget about. ;)

The Hawaii Document Database

I just came across a pretty cool site that shows many of the Government Documents that have been uploaded to the internet, but not necessarily publicized.

The Hawaii Documents Database (you have to scroll down as the layout for this site is terrible)

State and County Documents FY09, State and County Publications received at the Center July 2008 to June 30 2009.

It’s a pretty extensive little database but I like the information that is available.

I don’t really have time to sort through everything right now and I’ve gotten myself into enough trouble for the time being… but if anyone wanted to start going through some of those documents, I’m sure we could make a few people squirm by doing so.

Hawaii Volcano “Drainhole Piston”

Aerosols smaller than 1 micrometer are mostly formed by condensation processes such as conversion of sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas (released from volcanic eruptions) to sulfate particles and by formation of soot and smoke during burning processes. After formation, the aerosols are mixed and transported by atmospheric motions and are primarily removed by cloud and precipitation processes. Video courtesy of United States Geological Survey. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hK-HWOIP6Gs&hl=en&fs=1]

$1 Million to SSFM for Highway 130

So as many of you may know, last night I asked SSFM how much were they given for their contract in working on this Highway 130 Project that I’ve been working with a group of community members with since October of last year.

I was quoted in today’s paper:

…Not all members of the advisory group were on the same page. Damon Tucker, representing the Friends of Puna’s Future, asked about the state’s $1 million contract to SSFM International.

“I feel like the KPAG group members were used by the state to help pass a project that was planned long before I became a member,” Tucker said…”

Just for clarification purposes, the bold paragraph I left as a comment with Reporter Peter Sur knowing that it may… or may not get printed in the paper.  I didn’t say that in front of everyone… BUT IT IS HOW I FEEL!

SSFM I feel got a Million bucks to basically smooth things over between the community and State Representatives and put together a few presentations along the way.

It was funny that Cheryl Soon of SSFM came up to me before the presentation to  say… “You know Damon… I just want you to know that SSFM paid for the food and not the State”

Ms. Cheryl Soon is a senior planner with extensive national and Hawaii experience in both public and private sectors. She currently serves as the Director of SSFM’s Planning Group and is responsible for all planning projects.

Cheryl Soon, Director of SSFM’s Planning Group and is responsible for all planning projects.

Geez Cheryl… you just don’t get it?  SSFM paid for the food with the $1 Million dollars of tax funded money you guys got for this project.

Would have been nice if the food would have been up to par with the contract! ;)

It must be nice to get these nice big contracts and just have things fly under the table without even really informing people of things.

Even Hunter Bishop informed me at last nights meeting that he was surprised about some recent turn of events that he was notified earlier in the day about (the shoulder project that will be going in front of Keaau High School). (*Update* See Comment Below from Mr. Bishop… I don’t want this to sound as though Hunter has the same sentiments as mine towards the project)

Dr. James Weatherford actually left the meeting he was so disgusted with what was going on with the project.

On his way out I heard him say “I need to get out of here before I get myself in trouble” or something to that effect… Then he passed the bucket to me so to speak and said… “I’ll let you get in trouble” jokingly with me.

Of course… I’m always getting in trouble so it’s nothing new for me.

Conflicting Emails From Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida and Councilman Yagong

Yesterday I fired off two emails regarding the County Employee Internet Scandal that is under way.

It appears there seems to be some conflict between what is allowed to be browsed and what isn’t allowed to be browsed on County time.

Lincoln Ashida says browsing blogs on county time is ok… but Councilman Yagong doesn’t think so.

1st email to Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida – his responses are in red and have not been altered in any way:
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I have a couple questions regarding this Internet “Scandal” that is going on.

1. Do you consider visiting blogs on county time Internet Abuse? No.
2. Do you consider responding to newspaper articles in the comment section Internet Abuse? No.
3. What do you think the punishment should be for violators the above if they were found to be visiting sites deemed not appropriate to county business? Not applicable, since in my opinion it is not “internet abuse.”

In the April 29th Hawaii Tribune you stated:

“The investigation has focused on whether employees accessed inappropriate sites, conducted illegal activities while working or simply spent too much time surfing the Web, Ashida said.”

My question then… How will you separate employees who surfed on County time on their own personal laptops and wireless providers during county work time? This is one of the challenges we face, and why our Department of Data Systems requires the time to carefully examine the records to make this determination the best they can.  We will be fair to both the employees under our charge and the public we serve; this is why it is critical only accurate and credible information be released to the public.  This is what the public demands and would expect.

Do these county employees get a “pass” on this whole investigation simply because they have their own laptops and internet providers? No.  Given your assumption that there are County employees who are internet surfing on their own laptops and with their own ISP during County time, that would still violate the spirit of our policy if the use is more than infrequent and they are visiting inappropriate sites.

Punishing one employee for surfing the web on county time only because you can find out about their use and allowing others to simply slide because you can not bust them seems a bit unfair to me.

I look forward to hearing your response… (and it will be posted on my blog if you choose to respond)

Thanks to this investigation… the number of visits to my blog has tumbled and I provide more information then something like what you addressed in the newspaper.

“The Internet should not be used for non-county purposes,” Ashida said. “However, the policy (that employees sign) does recognize there might be some times when the use would be permitted.” For example, an employee could research product recalls or to learn about swine flu outbreaks, he said.”

I hate to say it Mr. Ashida…. but my blog, as well as others, can  provide more valuable resources to the counties workers then our own newspapers can provide at times. You shouldn’t hate to say it.  It may be true.  I believe you are proceeding on a false assumption. I never said it was inappropriate to visit and review sites like yours.  In fact, as I stated in my lengthy email to Tiffany Edwards-Hunt and others upon their request, I believe it is the responsibility of County officers to understand, appreciate and be sensitive to the feelings of the public we all serve.  This includes correcting erroneous and uninformed factual assertions made in all forms of publicly available media.

I look forward to your reply,

Damon Tucker

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So I find it interesting that Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida says it is ok to browse blogs, however in the following email received from Councilmember Yagong… he says it should be done at home:

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Aloha Councilman Yagong,

I have a couple questions regarding this Internet “Scandal” that is going on.

1. What event led you to wanting to ask of this investigation?
2. Do you consider visiting blogs on county time Internet Abuse?
3. Do you consider responding to newspaper articles in the comment section Internet Abuse?
4. What do you think the punishment should be for violators of #2 or #3 if they were found to be visiting sites deemed not appropriate to county business?

Thank you for making this inquiry…. Although the number of Blog Hits has tumbled because of this.

I look forward to your reply,

YAGONG’s Response:

Aloha Damon,
Thanks for your inquiry.  In regards to your questions:
1.  I’ll send you the email that I sent to County workers requesting suggestions to help with our County Budget and processes.
From this request, I received many suggestions from county employees, including allegations that there was Internet abuse by employees during working hours.  I was told that this abuse may be effecting productivity and could be a factor in contributing to over-time cost.  That is why I requested the Web Browsing Report from Data System to determine if the allegations were true or untrue.
2.  From a tax payers point of view, I would hope that the County employee sitting behind a desk has enough designated departmental work that he or she would have little time to read newspaper accounts or blogs during scheduled working hours.  With that said, I personally have no problem if this is done during the employees break time.  I would not consider that Internet abuse.
3.  If responding in comment section is done during an employee break time, I would not consider that abuse.  I truly believe that it is management responsibility to have clear guidelines, and in my opinion, except for employee breaks, it should not be allowed during scheduled working hours.  If employees want to respond or participate in blog discussions, they have that choice or opportunity at home.
4.  I have no control over disciplinary action.  That is left up to collective bargaining agreements made between the Unions and Management regarding Counseling/Suspension/ and or Termination.   For non-union employees, I have faith that the administration will treat everyone fairly and consistently as they would union employees if disciplinary action is deemed necessary.
Damon, I’m sorry about your hits tumbling due to my requesting the Web Browsing Report (which I have yet to see), however, if employees enjoy reading and responding to your site during county business hours…they can still do the same on their own personal time.
Thanks Damon. Much Aloha –  Dom

X-1 World Championship in Kona May 9th

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1MjuYpAQ18&hl=en&fs=1]