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City reviews Internet policy

August 30, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Two Hagerstown City Council members said Monday the city should tighten its policy on Internet use following a published report that a City Hall supervisor used his office computer to buy antiques online, sometimes during work hours.

Two other council members and Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the policy, which permits limited personal use of the Internet during work hours, is adequate.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said he would meet with city department heads Thursday to discuss whether the policy should be changed.

"Certainly we had a situation arise and we will take a good hard look at the policy," Zimmerman said Monday.

"We want to avoid this situation from happening again," he said.

Council members J. Wallace McClure and Alfred W. Boyer said city equipment, including office computers and city e-mail addresses, should be used for city business only.

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"We should take this as a wake-up call," McClure said.

He and Boyer said City Purchasing Manager G. David White's activities on the Internet auction site eBay sets a bad precedent for other employees.

A review by aHerald-Mail reporter last week showed that since April 7, White accessed www.eBay.com at least 70 times from his office computer, using a city-issued e-mail address.

The city's 2-year-old Internet policy states: "The City's network, e-mail and City provided Internet access is intended to be for City use only; use for informal or personal purposes is permissible within reason as determined by the department manager."

Personal use of the Internet on government-owned equipment is not allowed by the Washington County government or by the county Board of Education, according to their policies.

Zimmerman last week said the Internet use policy is adequate and Bruchey said Monday he agreed.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said the current policy "seems to be a prudent policy."

Councilman William M. Breichner called the policy "adequate" and "reasonable."

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner could not be reached for comment Monday.

White, who has been the head of the purchasing department for 18 years, confirmed last week that he had visited the "eBay" site before, during and after regular work hours.

Zimmerman said he discussed the situation Thursday with White, and said White told him he had been accessing eBay for 14 months on a "limited basis."

Zimmerman said based on what White told him, White has not violated the city's policy on Internet use at work.

McClure said that White's activities probably did not violate the city's Internet policy and that there probably would be no repercussions for White because the policy is "unclear."

White said last week that his personal use of his office computer and city e-mail address did not prevent him from working more than 40 hours a week for the city.

White said he is often in his office early in the morning, late at night and on weekends. He said he gets three breaks during a work day.

McClure said he expects to discuss the Internet use policy at a future work session.

"Certainly we had a situation arise and we will take a good hard look at the policy," Zimmerman said.

"We want to avoid this situation from happening again," he said.

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