Goofing off at work isn’t a crime, but it cost $250,000 in Watseka

In God We Trust, Illinois Politicians We Must Audit
January 29, 2016
Computer audit criticizes former employees’ use
January 29, 2016
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Written by Robert Themer

Inappropriate, personal use of computers by former Ford-Iroquois Health Department staff employed in the Iroquois County office in Watseka cost the department an estimated $250,000 per year in wasted staff time, a forensic computer auditor has concluded.

The second audit done by forensic auditor Andrew Garrett of Decatur-based Garrett Discovery examined three to five years of use of 16 computers in the Watseka office, finding 160,129 inappropriate web searches.

More than 142,000 of those were done on the top four computers searched. Inappropriate web searches included hits on dating sites, Facebook, Amazon, eBay and other online sales sites. One of the users also searched pornography sites.

Using an average of $44 per hour per employee for wages and benefits, Garrett reported to the board’s policy and procedure committee that the cost for inappropriate computer use would total $250,000 per year for the time employees spent “on the Internet rather than their actual job.”

The second forensic reviews were reviewed by the county board this week.

The forensic audits were launched by former board chairman Rod Copas, of Onarga, whose investigation of improprieties in the F-I health department led to the dissolution of the two-county department in June 2014, after 34 years. Each county then created its own health department. Copas was defeated for re-nomination in last year’s Republican primary.

The first phase of the audit of top F-I officials showed alleged misuse of tax money, manipulation of bidding on a $123,000 contract, and extensive use of computers for private purposes, including pornography. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office declined to take action on the bidding issue earlier.

That first audit was done at no cost. The second one cost $5,650.

The next phase will review the use of email, which will require further cooperation of the county, Garrett told the committee last month.

The investigation focused only on former F-I health department employees, not on any employees of the Iroquois County government offices.

The county board will be working on a new information technology policy to prevent similar problems, said board Chairman Kyle Anderson, of Beaverville. That may involve “randomly picking a couple computers a year to check,” he said.

“This obviously proves the health department was extremely overstaffed,” he said. “…. I would say we could have done it with half the employees. Maybe less.

“Are we getting a better bang for our buck? Yes,” he said. “Are we getting the best bang for our buck? I don’t know yet.”

Regarding the latest forensic report, State’s Attorney Jim Devine said that “goofing off on the job is not a prosecutable offense.”

Still, Devine said the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor’s office will review the entire investigation when it is completed.

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