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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2010
Ethics board announces actions against state employees

Workers face Ethics Act fines for on-the-job shenanigans 

OLYMPIA — A state worker surfing for pornography while on the job, another using state computers exclusively for personal business and a yet another who made off with thousands of dollars in taxpayer-owned equipment are among those facing penalties from the Washington State Executive Ethics Board. Today, the board announced its most recent actions under state ethics laws.

“Our mission is to promote integrity and public trust in state government by making sure that state employees who waste taxpayer dollars are held accountable,” said Ethics Board Executive Director Melanie deLeon.

On Friday, Sept. 17, 2010, the Ethics Board fined:

  • Brandon Chapman, an employee of the Department of Early Learning, $500 for using a state computer for personal gain. Between Aug. 12, 2008, and April 2, 2009, Chapman accessed sports-related sites, over a dozen social networking sites, including a family Web site, personal e-mail accounts, retail sites, banking sites and a site where he stored personal audio files. He also used his state computer to contact people to seek employment opportunities.
  • Al Hunton, a tenured full-time faculty member in Bates Technical College’s Television Broadcast Program, $6,500 for using state resources for personal gain. As an instructor, Hunton used his position to obtain his students’ personal cell phones to access and download their personal photographs onto his state computer. In May 2007, Bates investigated student complaints that Hunton showed excessive and inappropriate interest in their personal photographs. Hunton admitted that he had been using his state laptop to download pornographic images from adult websites. A forensic analysis of his computer found over 4,000 personal photographs and approximately 25,000 pornographic images. Bates Technical College also took disciplinary action against Hunton.
  • Connie Sakamoto, an administrative manager at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, $8,000 with an additional $2,000 suspended, for using three separate state computers for personal gain. Since July 2007, Sakamoto used state-provided laptop and desktop computers to run her private transcription business. Between Oct. 2007 and 2008, she regularly accessed her business’ e-mail during state time. A forensic analysis found 127 transcription reports and 27 invoices for transcription reports and 5,660 graphics identified as non-work related, including images of wedding dresses and photos of family gatherings. Sakamoto also participated in an online auction for a two-hour period.
  • Arden Gray, a finance/budget coordinator for the Washington State University, $4,000 with an additional $2,000 suspended, for using agency provided computers for personal gain. Gray had access to three University-owned computers: a desktop and two laptops. The State Auditor’s Office conducted a forensic analysis of her Internet use from March 2002 through February 2009 and found personal Internet use on all three computers and more than 2,400 non-work related records. The two laptop computers showed no evidence of university-related activity at all – only personal use.

On Friday, July 9, 2010, the Executive Ethics Board fined:

  • Grace Straight, a Department of Social and Health Services lead financial Services specialist at the Spokane Valley Community Services Office $500 with an additional $250 suspended, for sending an e-mail to co-workers encouraging them to contact their state representatives to voice their objection to a proposed bill that would raise vehicle license fees.

The Board issued Default Final Orders and Judgments against:

  • Gerald Hebert, for actions taken during his tenure on the Human Rights Commission. Hebert was issued a state credit card in 2005. The credit card was cancelled due to his failure to pay the bill. In July 2006, Hebert began using another state credit card to purchase items that were not reimbursable as commission expenses. Out of a total of $4,763.98 in purchases made with Hebert’s state credit card, only $939.01 was determined to be reimbursable. He failed to pay the expenses on time and the bank closed the account in January 2007. Hebert subsequently paid the balance in March of 2007. The board imposed a civil penalty of $7,500.
  • Kyle Gubbe, for actions taken while he was an information technology specialist employed by the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). Between 2003 and 2009, Gubbe ordered, purchased and removed from the PDC’s offices 98 pieces of equipment valued at $21,467.81. Gubbe eventually returned 23 of these items. The value of the remaining 75 totals $12,573.96. For at least two billing cycles in 2009, Gubbe used an agency-assigned cell phone for personal calls and text messages, exceeding the plan calling and texting time. Over two years, Gubbe used his agency’s e-mail account for personal use on at least 1,153 occasions, including receiving sports e-mail updates, viewing videos of his son’s sporting events, sending and receiving e-mails from family members and other non-work related matters. Additionally, on several occasions, Gubbe used the agency’s credit card to make unauthorized purchases of equipment for personal use. He took measures to hide his transactions from PDC staff. On Feb. 1, 2010, Gubbe pled guilty to one count of Theft in the First Degree and three counts of Theft in the Second Degree. He was sentenced to 10 months in county jail and ordered to pay $12,746.92 in restitution. The board imposed a civil penalty of $17,000.

About the Washington State Executive Ethics Board
The Executive Ethics Board, housed in the Attorney General’s Office, is comprised of five members appointed by the Governor. The members play a crucial role in the policy setting and enforcement of the Ethics Act. The board and its staff investigate ethic complaints of executive state officials and agencies. Its authority also extends to interpreting and enforcing the ethics law, imposing sanctions for violations of the ethics law, developing educational materials, providing ethics training, and issuing formal advisory opinions.

MORE INFORMATION:

Executive Ethics Board 2009 Annual Report 

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Contacts:

Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725

 

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