Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Port of Seattle porn probe prompts painter’s exit

by Matt Rosenberg March 25th, 2013

Internal reports obtained by Public Data Ferret through a public records request reveal a Port of Seattle sign painter and Snohomish County resident named David John Swensen resigned from his job after confessing to viewing pornography on workplace computers. A Port of Seattle Police investigation found “numerous pornographic images” on one computer used at work by Swensen, plus “several pornographic photos” on another. A third computer placed into evidence in the investigation had on it a special application that could have been used to sweep it clean, according to Port police reports. Port documents show Swensen also admitted to accessing child pornography “by accident” on work hardware, but none was found in the police review and no criminal charges were filed.

Public records show Swensen, 41, is registered to vote in Lake Stevens, Snohomish County. He worked in the port’s sign shop in the terminal of Sea-Tac Airport. The investigation findings come in a Port of Seattle Police “follow-up report” dated last July 13, which is bundled with a related police report in documents from the Port. Swenson’s last name is referenced on the first page of the first report, and in an intake interview conducted by Port investigator Tony Ramos last April. Port spokesman Jason Kelly confirmed all the documents pertained to Swensen; and that Swensen resigned as the investigation was unfolding.

Worked alone, was stressed – and “one search would lead to another”
According the intake interview report, Swensen “self-reported” first to his manager Keith Gillin that he’d been viewing pornography at work because he “wanted to come clean.” He initially said this occurred only very occasionally but after Ramos told him “there were extensive records…he was accessing inappropriate adult content on numerous occasions” Swensen “then stated it could have been as much as 180 times.” Stress in his personal life drove him to it, Swensen told Ramos. According to the intake report, “Swensen said he worked alone in the office and said that at times he would be on other Internet news sites like CNN and then one search would lead to another.”

Port Blackberry also used to access porn
According to the intake interview, Swensen also said he had recently accessed pornography on his Port-dispensed Blackberry, from home. Ramos wrote, “Swensen said he knew it was stupid but he could not help himself…” Asked by Ramos if any of the porn he viewed on Port hardware involved minors, Swensen said, “Yes, it was by accident, though, there may have been some involving minors…I’m not into that, that is not my thing, I would click off.”

“Numerous pornographic images”
Of three computers placed into evidence, the subsequent Port police investigation found “numerous pornographic images” on one, several on another, and none on a third, but no child porn images on any of the three. One had been swept clean with the application “CCleaner,” possibly indicating “deliberate actions to remove browsing history, deliberate ‘cleaning’ of unallocated space, browsing on the Internet using a browser installed on a thumb drive, using the ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ settings common among Internet browsers, (or) using an anonymizer or SSH tunneling to prevent detection,” wrote Port detective Lee Donlan in his July follow-up report.

The report concluded and Port spokesman Kelly confirmed that because no images of child pornography were detected, there was no basis for criminal charges against Swensen. Kelly said, “Mr. Swensen resigned from the port. Port employees who violate our Internet use policies face serious consequences up to and including termination of employment.” He added, “the Port uses a service to actively block access to known sites that distribute inappropriate material, including pornography, gambling and other similar issues. The filters to identify prohibited websites are updated frequently, but the product does not have the ability to interpret images that could be found on commonly used news and video sites that may be accessed for a legitimate business purpose.”

Although the intake interview report released by the Port included a summary statement that Swensen “reported to his manager that he had used Port computers to sell pornographic images,” that was incorrect, said Kelly.

At Port – thefts, credit card misuse, contracting ethics troubles
The Swensen case is one more in a series of ethical lapses at the Port of Seattle. A late 2010 performance review by the Washington State Auditor found that Port divisions had reported to Port police – but not the State Auditor, as required under law – that they had suffered 41 instances of theft from early 2006 to early 2009 including computers, copper wire, aluminum window frames, a pressure washer, drills, a projector, steel cables, copper pipes, handguns, blank security badges and digital cameras.

Last month, Port Commissioner Rob Holland resigned after the Seattle Times detailed a series of ethical lapses on his part including personal charges on his Port credit card and a lewd photo on his Port mobile phone. A state performance audit of the Port in late 2007 revealed what then-State Auditor Brian Sonntag called “serious and pervasive issues” in construction project oversight including improprieties related to bids awarded for work to expand Sea-Tac Airport. This led to a series of high-profile ethics reforms at the Port including strengthening of internal audit procedures.

Port investigations such as that of Swensen’s confessed use of work computers to view pornography fall outside the internal audit committee’s normal reporting scope. We obtained the records as part of a request for records related to internal investigations of employee ethics.

Problem not unique to Port
The problem of public employee misuse of work computers, including to access pornography or other sexually inappropriate material, is not unique to the Port. We have previously reported on officially confirmed cases in the Washington state school districts of Bainbridge Island, Monroe, and Kennewick.

Public workplace ethics troubles in WA: the archive
Those are among 67 public sector cases of various types within Washington state reported on to date in Public Data Ferret’s ethics archive.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.


2 Responses to “Port of Seattle porn probe prompts painter’s exit”

  1. [...] “Port of Seattle Porn Probe Prompts Painter’s Exit” [...]

  2. [...] As we reported last week, a Port worker named David John Swensen was found to have used his workplace computer to repeatedly viewed pornography and admitted he “accidentally” accessed child pornography at work. None of the latter was found in a search of computers he used, which investigators said had been wiped clean of some files. There were no criminal charges but he was dismissed. [...]