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Washington State Auditors Office

Whistleblower Report

Department of Social and Health Services

Report No. 1001781

Issue Date July 6, 2009

Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag

July 6, 2009

Department of Social and Health Services Thurston County Olympia, Washington

Report on Whistleblower Investigation


Attached is the official report on Whistleblower Case No. WB 09-026 for the Department of Social and Health Services. The State Auditors Office received an assertion of improper governmental activity at the Department. This assertion was submitted to us under the provisions of Chapter 42.40 of the Revised Code of Washington, the Whistleblower Act. We have investigated the assertion independently and objectively through interviews and by reviewing relevant documents. This report contains the results of our investigation. Questions about this report should be directed to Senior Investigator Sandra Y. Miller at (360) 902-0378 or Director of Special Investigations Jim Brittain at (360) 902-0372.

BRIAN SONNTAG, CGFM WASHINGTON STATE AUDITOR BS:sym cc: Ms. Kathleen Brockman, Chief Administrative Officer Ginny Heim, Special Assistant Martin Butkovich, Regional Administrator, Region 1

Insurance Building, P.O. Box 40021 Olympia, Washington Auditors Office Washington State 98504-0021 (360) 902-0370 TDD Relay (800) 833-6388 FAX (360) 753-0646 2 http://www.sao.wa.gov

Investigation Summary
State of Washington Department of Social and Health Services
ABOUT THE INVESTIGATION
On October 1, 2008, the State Auditors Office began an investigation into a whistleblower assertion regarding personal use of state resources at the Department of Social and Health Services, Region 1. During the investigation we obtained a copy of the employees Internet and e-mail use and her computer network files from the Departments Information Technology Department.

ASSERTION AND RESULTS A Secretary Senior in the Division of Children and Family Services in Wenatchee is using state resources for personal benefit or gain for herself or others.
We found reasonable cause to believe an improper governmental action occurred. During our investigation, we found 25 nonwork-related folders in the employees computer network file. The contents of these folders included jokes, ethnic activities, personal letters, pictures and directions to a yard sale, power point presentations and other information for her personal entertainment company, a festival membership list and a resume. The Department was able to capture Internet history for September 29, 2008, to December 31, 2008. During this time frame, the employee visited nonwork-related sites on 45 dates for a minimum of nine hours and 27 minutes. Internet sites visited included her personal e-mail account, credit union, recipe sites, history sites, movies, an on-line auction service and a retailer. The subject had two e-mail accounts dating back to 2001. We reviewed the subjects sent e-mails for September, October and November 2008. The subject sent 92 personal e-mail messages containing personal pictures, jokes, personal insurance transactions and invoices, flyers, forms and an ethnic festival that pertained to her personal business. Therefore, we find reasonable cause to believe an improper governmental action occurred.

DEPARTMENT'S PLAN OF RESOLUTION


The Regional Administrator will meet with the Supervisor and Area Administrator regarding Department policy. The meeting will include discussion concerning under what circumstances staff are allowed to use work time and equipment for community activities and to ensure inappropriate use no longer occurs by employees. This action will be completed by June 30, 2009. The Supervisor will meet with the employee and review the requirements related to the appropriate and inappropriate uses of state resources as outlined in Administrative Policy 15.15.

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The employee will be required to sign off that Administrative Policy 15.15 has been read and understood. Both actions will occur by June 30, 2009. After meeting with and reviewing the investigators information and meeting with the employee about the assertions, misconduct was determined and disciplinary action is in process.

AUDITORS REMARKS
We thank Department officials and personnel for their assistance and cooperation during the investigation.

INVESTIGATION CRITERIA/POLICIES
We came to our determination in this investigation by evaluating the facts against the criteria below: RCW 42.52.160(1), Use of persons, money or property for private gain, states in part: (1) No state officer or state employee may employ or use any person, money, or property under the officers or employees official control or direction, or in his or her official custody, for the private benefit or gain of the officer, employee, or another. WAC 292-110-010, Use of state resources. Statement of principles stewardship, states in part: (1) The proper stewardship of state resources, including funds, facilities, tools, property, and employees and their time, is a responsibility that all state officers and employees share. Accordingly, state employees may not use state resources for personal benefit or gain or for the benefit or gain of other individuals or outside organizations. Personal benefit or gain may include a use solely for personal convenience, or a use to avoid personal expense. Responsibility and accountability for the appropriate use of state resources ultimately rests with the individual state officer and state employee, or with the state officer or state employee who authorizes such use. Employees and officials are cautioned that their own personal use of state resources should never interfere with another state official or employee, or obligate another employee to make personal use of state resources . . . (4) Permitted use of computers and electronic mail, and the internet. A state officer or employee may use state computers and other equipment to access computer networks or other data bases, including the internet and electronic mail provided such use conforms to ethical standards under subsection (3) of this section, and the use is not otherwise prohibited under subsection (6) of this section. A state officer or employee may use state computers and other equipment to access the internet only if the officer's or employee's agency has adopted a policy governing internet access that is consistent with subsections (3) and (6) of this section. (6) Prohibited uses. The state Constitution, state and federal laws, and the Ethics in Public Service Act strictly prohibit certain private activity and certain uses of state resources. Any use of state resources to support such activity clearly undermines public confidence in state government and reflects negatively on state employees generally. This rule explicitly prohibits at all times the following private uses of state resources.
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(a) Any use for the purpose of conducting an outside business or private employment; (b) Any use for the purpose of supporting, promoting the interests of, or soliciting for an outside organization or group, including, but not limited to: A private business, a nonprofit organization, or a political party (unless provided for by law or authorized by an agency head or designee) . . . . Department of Social and Health Services Administrative Policy No. 15.15, Use of Electronic Messaging Systems and the Internet, states in part: 2. Permitted Personal Use Personal use of department electronic messaging systems and the Internet must conform to WAC 292-110-010, Use of State Resources, which states that employees may make occasional but limited personal use of state resources such as electronic messaging systems and the Internet if the use conforms to all of the following ethical standards There is little or no cost to the state; the use does not interfere with the performance of the employees official duties; The use is brief in duration and frequency; Employees are expected to exercise good judgment in both duration and frequency; the use does not disrupt other state employees and does not obligate them to make a personal use of state resources; and The use does not compromise the security or integrity of state information or software.

3. Prohibited Uses Employees are prohibited from using state-provided electronic messaging systems and the Internet in any of the following ways: Employees may not derive personal benefit or financial gain from the use of state provided e-mail, voice mail, or Internet access. Employees may not use state-provided email, voice mail, or Internet access to conduct activities that support outside employment, Employees must not use state provided electronic systems or Internet access to create, access post, send, sexually explicit or pornographic material unless the necessary for the performance of the employees duties messaging or print any material is job-related

Checking personal, outside email accounts using department computers, networks and communication lines if prohibited. Employees must not use e-mail products on department computers other than those provided and supported by the department.

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ABOUT THE STATE AUDITOR'S OFFICE


The State Auditor's Office is established in the state's Constitution and is part of the executive branch of state government. The State Auditor is elected by the citizens of Washington and serves four-year terms. Our mission is to work in cooperation with our audit clients and citizens as an advocate for government accountability. As an elected agency, the State Auditor's Office has the independence necessary to objectively perform audits and investigations. Our audits are designed to comply with professional standards as well as to satisfy the requirements of federal, state, and local laws. The State Auditor's Office employees are located around the state to deliver our services effectively and efficiently. Our audits look at financial information and compliance with state, federal and local laws on the part of all local governments, including schools, and all state agencies, including institutions of higher education. In addition, we conduct performance audits of state agencies and local governments and fraud, whistleblower and citizen hotline investigations. The results of our work are widely distributed through a variety of reports, which are available on our Web site and through our free, electronic subscription service. We continue to refine our reporting efforts to ensure the results of our audits are useful and understandable. We take our role as partners in accountability seriously. We provide training and technical assistance to governments and have an extensive quality assurance program. State Auditor Chief of Staff Deputy Chief of Staff Chief Policy Advisor Director of Audit Director of Special Investigations Director for Legal Affairs Director of Quality Assurance Local Government Liaison Communications Director Public Records Officer Main number Toll-free Citizen Hotline Web Site Subscription Service Brian Sonntag, CGFM Ted Rutt Doug Cochran Jerry Pugnetti Chuck Pfeil, CPA Jim Brittain, CPA Jan Jutte, CPA, CGFM Ivan Dansereau Mike Murphy Mindy Chambers Mary Leider (360) 902-0370 (866) 902-3900

www.sao.wa.gov https://www.sao.wa.gov/EN/News/Subscriptions/

(SAO FACTS.DOC - Rev. 06/09)