On the Lookout for Porn Traders

Rhett Pardon
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Forest Service is contemplating punishment for 65 employees who have been sharing sexually explicit material through their government-issued computers and email addresses, the agency said Tuesday.

Forest Service official Joe Walsh told XBiz.com that the internal investigation, which was launched by regional computer specialists and human-resource officers, is ongoing. The employees face disciplinary action ranging from dismissal to letters of reprimand to time off without pay.

“What we have here is inappropriate behavior at the workplace, and we will take whatever disciplinary procedures as necessary,” Walsh said. “We will not tolerate this.”

The emails came under scrutiny last fall after a Forest Service worker received one of the pornographic messages and alerted a supervisor, officials said.

The probe revealed that a group of employees regularly shared sexually explicit emails that included photographs, stories, jokes, and cartoons.

Officials say 30 of the employees were based in the Forest Service’s office of Missoula, Mont., and six national forests including Bitterroot, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, the Lolo, Helena, Lewis and Clark, and Kootenai. Thirty five of the employees are in six other regions of the Forest Service and in Washington, D.C.

Initially the probe involved a much larger group but was narrowed depending on employee-response to the emails, officials said. The Forest Service has 30,000 workers.

“Some people acted properly, by either deleting the messages or reporting them to a supervisor, and some people didn't,” Forest Service official Ed Nesselroad told the Associated Press.

The emails were sent to employees in other federal agencies and at least one state government, although those investigations are in much earlier stages, Nesselroad said.

“Ever since the agency has had ready access to the Internet, we've consistently told employees not to do this -- that this is an inappropriate use,” he said.