in Houston, Texas
Enough, already, with the porn on the public dime
Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011, 04:38PM CST
By Steve Miller
silhouette

We don’t care how public officials spend their free time as long as they are conscientious stewards of the public’s money and trust.

But really, how many more times do we have to hear about this elected official or appointee spending time on his (or her) taxpayer-funded computer looking at porn or surfing for some other form of titillation?

Today we hear of the Cameron County constable election, in South Texas, where one candidate, accidentally if you believe such a thing, texted she-male photos to the other.

The photos came to sitting Constable Robert Lopez from his opponent, Joe Rodriguez, who is police chief in the town of Primera. Lopez was reportedly using a county-issued phone; Rodriguez, a personal phone. The details are he-said-he-said, but then we learn more from a news report by KGBT Channel 4 in Harlingen:
Back in 2007, Chief Rodriguez was terminated from the Rio Hondo ISD. It was the result of an investigation over adult web content searches he allegedly made from school computers as a district cop.
Next we have the case of Galveston City Councilman Chris Gonzales, who was terminated from his internet services job with the county earlier this month. A public records request for the official’s public emails led to the discovery he “had been using an official email account to pass along racy and perhaps lewd messages, to sign up for dating sites, to conduct personal business such as banking,” and more, the Galveston Daily News reported.

And of course we recall Metro CEO George Greanias and his porn-surfing troubles from the summer. Now it’s been found that the legal bill from his escapades cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, this report from Houston Community Newspapers says.
Outside legal bills resulting from researching possible disciplinary actions against Greanias, along with related matters such as studying case law concerning the Open Records requests that would likely follow, cost $14,560, according to Metro.
Metro could buy a new KIA, or at least a few rail spurs, for that amount, right?

Again, we care little about the content of this time-wasting. What we want to figure out is where these folks get the time to spend on such unimportant things.

We understand that most public employees get the job done and more; we look to our dealings with the city of Houston and Harris County and almost always come away feeling that these are people who work hard and enjoy what they do.

And we also realize that the above noted lapses are few and newsworthy because they are an anomaly.

But really, surfing porn on the public dime?
 
***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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Comments
Gritsforbreakfast
Friday, 09/30/2011 - 10:00AM

I'm a fan of Texas Watchdog reporting, mostly, but just because you can access information under the Public Information Act doesn't make that information important. There are real issues in the world and there are "gotcha" media stories. This is the latter.

What if it turned out, as I suspect, that government workers who work the longest hours are most likely to use work computers to access porn or for other, less gotcha-worthy personal purposes? God forbid somebody who spends 12-hours per day at work "conduct personal business such as banking" from their work computer. (Heaven, save us all!)

It's disingenuous to say "we care little about the content of this time-wasting." There's a reason you cite "porn" in the headline and not online banking. The last four paragraphs seem to acknowledge that this is a nothing story, but is being published for its salacious qualities. Journalism needs to be better than that: Report on what's important, and don't define "important" as whatever gets the most page views amidst the degraded media of the reality-TV era.

kevin whited
Sunday, 10/02/2011 - 03:35PM

** What if it turned out, as I suspect, that government workers who work the longest hours are most likely to use work computers to access porn **

So what?

Take it home or deal with the consequences (including possible termination and media shame).

And yes, content matters -- If you don't want media or others to point out you've been viewing possibly illegal gay child porn on the public dole (a la METRO's disgraced CEO), do it at home on your own resources (and, in the case of child porn, hope you don't get caught).

I doubt you're going to find many takers for the truly bizarre notion that it's no different than checking one's bank account at work.

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