AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage recently cracked down on state workers who look at pornography, issuing an executive order to make sure policies were clear.
The president of the Maine State Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989 said the executive order took her by surprise.
“We were surprised this came out at this time. … There’s always been a policy prohibiting personal use of computers including use of pornography,” Ginette Rivard said.
But according to documents obtained by CBS 13, a state worker admitted he used his work computer on state time to access sexually explicit pictures and dating websites. He was fired, according to the documents, but an arbitrator ordered the state to hire him back after the union representing state workers fought the case.
LePage’s order says accessing porn and other explicit material on government computers or devices is misconduct and just cause for termination.
Rivard called this kind of behavior “exceedingly rare.”
“They work through the lunch hours and breaks,” Rivard said. “They work hard, and I don’t see how the average worker would have time to think about this kind of behavior.”
According to documents from the American Arbitration Association, the case involving the state worker started with a voicemail complaint to human resources that a Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife employee was using his state-owned computer during work hours to visit inappropriate sites.
A review of the computer confirmed the employee “used the state-owned computer and on state work time he accessed information of a sexual nature through internet websites and other social media,” according to documents obtained by CBS 13.
The worker was fired for violating state policy 2½ months after the initial complaint, according to the report.
SEIU Local 1989 filed a grievance saying the termination was without just cause, and the arbitrator agreed based on current and past practices.
“What he did was wrong, and the grievant and the Union do not suggest otherwise. However, the State’s decision to terminate was based upon an extremely exaggerated view of the quality and quantity of the grievant’s misconduct,” the arbitrator wrote.
“It is fair to say that with the exception of the most egregious of cases, the pattern has been to impose a suspension, but not termination, in the first instance of an employee using state computers to visit sexually explicit web sites, even during work hours,” the arbitrator added.
When asked about the case, Rivard said she was “not aware of a specific case and it’s something we wouldn’t comment on either.”
LePage press secretary Adrienne Bennett said she couldn’t say whether the executive order was the result of a specific case.
“But what I can tell you is the union should be familiar with this particular issue; if they’re baffled, they need to look at this again,” Bennett said.
Bennett confirmed such cases are why policies need to be clarified and enforced across state government.
“Our governor is the chief executive officer of this state. He’s treating this as a business policy initiative within the workplace. He takes this seriously. These are taxpayer dollars at use. These are public service employees, and we’re taking the policy seriously,” Bennett said.
The arbitrator in the DIF&W worker’s case ordered the termination be reduced to a suspension without pay for two weeks.
The employee and DIF&W didn’t respond to a request for comment from CBS 13.