Collaboration in Civic Spheres

$61K DSHS supe used work as playground, pays $1.5K fine

by Matt Rosenberg March 28th, 2012

A supervisor at the Washington state Department of Social and Health Services has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,500 for using state time and equipment for his own interests, in apparent violation of the state’s Ethics in Public Service Act, according to an order approved March 16 by the Washington State Executive Ethics Board. Kevin McStay, 44, of Gig Harbor, who was classified as a “Social Worker 4″ unit supervisor for DSHS, in 2008 and 2009 used work hours and equipment to promote his rock band (named “Classic Ride”). According to a whistleblower report by the state auditor which led to the ethics board action, witnesses conveyed that McStay “disrupted colleagues in the office” and “did not complete his work because of the amount of time he spent on personal matters.”

A forensic analysis of McStay’s work computer by the State Auditor’s office in late September, 2009, revealed substantial non-work activity. The ethic’s board’s very abbreviated summary of a November 2010 auditor’s office whistleblower report on McStay mentions 222 visits by him to social networking sites, web mail, online calendars and other sites for personal use; plus 174 visits to YouTube; and another 80 visits to search engines looking for information on concerts, instruments, song lyrics and web material mentioning his band. McStay used more state time and resources to produce flyers and banners to promote his group, and installed a personal AOL account on his state workplace computer, according to the ethics board order.

Pay rose from $50K in ‘07 to $61K by ‘09, as distractions ensued
McStay earned $61,185.55 in 2010 according to records from the state’s Office of Financial Management (p.213); in 2009 he was paid a monthly rate equivalent to $61,736 per year, and a monthly rate equal to $50,484 in 2007. HeĀ agreed to pay a fine of $3,000 as a result of the board’s findings, with half that amount suspended so long as he doesn’t violate the Ethics in Public Service Act again for the next two years. The Executive Ethics Board order signed by McStay says an aggravating factor in his case was that he was a supervisor at DSHS, but mitigating factors were that he’s already been reprimanded, has met with ethics board staff and admitted wrongdoing, and is now working to educate co-workers on proper use of state resources.

More details in whistleblower report
The ethics board review of McStay’s case arose from a whistleblower report issued on him by the state auditor’s office in November 2010. That report details additional non-work use of state time and facilities by McStay which are not covered in the ethics board order and shows that prior to taking responsibility for his actions, he appeared to do just the opposite. The whistleblower report says McStay:

  • sent 53 emails on his state computer related to his band’s work but said it was minimal because the band didn’t make money (the auditor found emails indicating the band did earn money and McStay discussed setting up a tax shelter for the band to safeguard earnings);
  • used his state computer to exchange 13 emails with the seller of a piece of furniture but told investigators it was okay because he didn’t buy anything, and that his wife would call him over the course of a remodeling project with items for him to check out online. (She now works as director of employment services the Clover Park School District and previously held a similar position for the South Kitsap school district);
  • used his state computer to exchange 46 emails with an unnamed family member that were either of a personal nature, or related to chain emails;
  • explained the 174 visits on his state computer to YouTube by saying he had a video of his dog on the site and would get employees to watch it;
  • explained his visits on his state computer to Irish culture web sites by saying he was Irish and the sites “were related to his personal morale;”
  • was at least twice seen by witnesses posting band fliers in the office, and was also seen spending as much as two hours in the break room during work hours creating his band’s logo, and making copies of a band flier on an office copy machine.

The whistleblower report also notes:

Witnesses stated the subject spent up to several hours a day on personal matters, especially during the time he played in a band and remodeled his garage. Witnesses stated he disrupted colleagues in the office to discuss his projects and asked people to view items on the Internet for his project. Finally, witnesses stated the subject did not complete his work because of the amount of time he spent on personal matters.

Says he has ‘a pretty cool job’
According to the whistleblower report, McStay’s band was called “Classic Ride.” On his MySpace page he wrote, “I’m a happily married guy with a pretty cool job. For kicks and grins I enjoy boating and rocking the bass guitar with my band, Classic Ride.”

He also led a group called “The Spenders.” The Spenders’ haunts included The Bremerton Yacht Club in 2008 and again in early 2009.

Seventh in line, not third
According to McStay’s Facebook page his new band is called “Third In Line.” But McStay is at least seventh in the line of DSHS workers whose cases have been highlighted anew in the last five months by the state, for having misused work time and equipment for personal business. Four DSHS workers were sanctioned last November by the ethics board; two more face ethics board sanctions after whistleblower findings were issued against them by the auditor in October.

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