by Matt Rosenberg November 22nd, 2011
The Washington State Executive Ethics Board has finalized disciplinary sanctions in four cases involving employees of the state’s Department of Health and Social Services who broke state law by conducting private business at work, or in one case, by using their official state employee and agency status in a political TV ad without a necessary disclaimer. At its meeting last Friday the board signed four so-called “stipulation” documents – essentially settlements in place of civil court proceedings – which had already been signed by the employees, setting fine amounts or taking other steps.
One case involved Susan Mottram, an office support supervisor for DSHS, who according to whistleblower complaint investigation by the State Auditor’s office, was found to have accessed 320 non-work-related Web sites over 39 days of work in 2008. The ethics board found she violated state law and administrative code prohibiting use of public resources for private purposes. Her actions were aggravated by several factors, according to the ethics board: she’d already been counseled not to do so; she was responsible for communicating to clerical subordinates the proper and improper uses of state resources; and she’d previously investigated a subordinate for improper use of the Internet at work.
In addition, the board stated, Mottram’s use of the Internet for personal purposes at work was further aggravated because it was ongoing and intentional, and she had “siginifcant supervisory responsibilities.”
Under the ethics board settlement with Mottram, she will pay the ethics board a civil penalty of $1,500.
In a second case, Anna Bowman, who was an Office Assistant 2 for DSHS’s Health Recovery Services Administration, was found in a December 2010 auditor’s office whistleblower investigation to have promoted her personal businesses selling cosmetics and wine, using her state employee resources. According to that inquiry, she displayed brochures and catalogs at her work station, placed brochures at a work-related event, took orders at work and over the course of 2007 to 2010 used her work computer to send and receive e-mails related to orders and to market her businesses. The ethics board found she violated state law and administrative code prohibiting use of public resources for private purposes. Her actions were aggravated, stated the ethics board, because they were for personal gain, but were considered “mitigated,” or somewhat less serious, because she got incorrect information from her supervisor about conducting private business as a state employee in a state facility.
Under the ethics board settlement with Bowman, she will pay a civil penalty to the ethics board of $1,000.
Fran Wilson-Maudsley, now retired, was the chief of the administrative services arm of DSHS’s Social Services Payment System. An inspection of her work computer showed she had used it to correspond with subordinates interested in ordering jewelry from her, which she made, and sold at arts and crafts events. According to the ethics board, Wilson-Maudley violated state law and administrative code prohibiting use of public resources for private purposes, and also failed to comply with DSHS ethics guidelines prohibit workers from benefitting from any contract, lease, sale, purchase or grant involving a subordinate.
In the settlement with Wilson-Maudsley, she will pay a civil penalty of $250.
A fourth case decided by the ethics board Friday involved a licensed practical nurse at DSHS’s Western State Hospital in Steilacoom, Laura Smith. According to the board, she identified herself by name and title and depicted herself as being in her state workplace by its name, in a public employee union television commercial aired in February and March of 2011. It was aimed at state lawmakers budget deliberations and urging constituents to contact them to protest proposed staffing cuts. She violated state law by using her job title without a disclaimer she was speaking only for herself, not her agency, according to the ethics board. In its settlement agreement with Smith, the board decided to levy no penalty and directed her to review applicable state laws.