James Eli Shiffer, the Star Tribune’s watchdog and data editor, digs into data and documents to uncover the news. Reach him at 612-673-4116, james.shiffer@startribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @jameselishiffer. Tell us what to investigate. Send your story tips to whistleblower@startribune.com.

Porn on computer sparks HUD investigation (warning: redacted)

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer Updated: July 30, 2014 - 9:55 AM

Records geek that I am, governmentattic.org has become one of my regular stops on the web. The folks who spend their time "rummaging in the government's attic" request dozens of public records through the Freedom of Information Act and post them without comment for anybody to see.

On Monday, they posted 80 pages that document internal investigations of suspected employee misconduct by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. One of them involved an employee in HUD's Minneapolis office who apparently had a penchant for viewing naked or barely clothed women on his work computer.

The investigation by HUD's Office of Inspector General took place more than two years ago, and does not name the employee. HUD presented the case to the U.S. Attorney, which declined to prosecute. According to the report, a number of co-workers said they saw the objectionable images on the worker's computer. The Inspector General found out about the complaints in November 2011, discovered 36 questionable images on the employee's hard drive and interviewed employees, who reported seeing plenty of jutting posteriors and exposed skin, but no really hard-core content. The employee at first denied having those types of images, but then admitted he used his computer during work hours to view "scantily clad" and "completely nude" women. 

The employee described being confronted with his habit as "shock of his life" and promised not to do it again, saying "there is nothing like a reformed person." Whether there was any disciplinary action, the investigation report does not say.

Every name in the document is redacted, in many cases under a provision that prohibits the release of data that "constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." One absurd passage: (Blank) asked (blank) if he was familiar with (blank). (Blank) said (blank) was a Canadian playboy-type model."

Here's the document:

 

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