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

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