Local Politics

Moore Rips Audit Critical of Computer Use

Posted January 31, 2008

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— State Treasurer Richard Moore blasted State Auditor Les Merritt following an audit that found several staff members in Moore's office used state computers for activities tied to his gubernatorial campaign.

Merritt's auditors combed through computer files in the offices of Moore and Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, Moore's chief rival for the Democratic nomination, last fall following accusations by each campaign that the other was illegally using state computers for campaign business.

The audit of computers in Moore's office found "significant evidence of political activity using state resources" by four part-time staff members who also work on Moore's campaign. The activity included accessing the Web sites of political action committees and polling consultants and holding files like campaign speeches, a thank-you letter to donors and Democratic Party contact lists.

The four staff members told auditors that they tried to use private e-mail accounts for campaign work. Still, the audit recommended that all four should be disciplined and that Moore should more closely monitor his employees' activities and should educate everyone in his office on the state's computer-use policy.

"There's zero tolerance for political use but a reasonable tolerance for personal use, and this rose to the level of political use," said Chris Mears, a spokesman for the State Auditor's Office.

Moore responded with a four-page letter that called the audit "overreaching" and questioned how it was conducted.

"There are clearly serious problems with your investigation," Moore wrote in the letter. "First, your staff has adopted a definition of 'political' that goes far beyond any reasonable person's definition. Further, what is 'political' is not defined by our statutes."

He maintained that most of the computer files questioned pertained to official business of the State Treasurer's Office, were personal in nature or amounted to "water cooler talk." He acknowledged that nine e-mails over a three-year period were political in nature, and he said that the employees involved have already been warned about using state computers for campaign work.

The audit staff was so taken aback by Moore's scathing response that they issued a two-page response outlining how the audit was conducted and supporting their contention that his staff was violating policies on the use of state computers.

"There were hundreds of additional documents, e-mails and Internet site hits that raised concern regarding their potential political purpose," the response stated. "To ensure fair and objective analysis, the management letter (to Moore) excluded any items that could be construed as having any reasonable association to the State Treasurer's official duties."

Moore's chief of staff, Stacey Phipps, released a statement Thursday afternoon reiterating its belief that the audit was flawed.

“The Department of State Treasurer has worked to draw a bright line between official duties and campaign activities," the statement said. "We acknowledge that over a three-year period there were a few incidents where staff acted improperly. These are exceptions, not the rule, and the employees responsible were disciplined. Unfortunately, the auditor overreached, putting his entire report into question."

The audit of computers in Perdue's office found a few e-mails and drafts of speeches and letters in files, but Perdue's attorney said the material was either unsolicited or dated to before she was elected. Most of the campaign activity carried out by her staff was done on private computers, Perdue said, noting that she would remind workers to conduct campaign work only on their off hours.

Perdue's campaign had paid for a private Internet connection and wireless router in her official office, and auditors recommended that it be removed. Perdue responded that, although she chairs the Business Education Technology Alliance and needs to stay abreast of new technologies, she had already disconnected the line to avoid any impression of a conflict of interest.

"It's our goal to ferret out any sort of electioneering using state resources because that money is meant for the public and the public good," Mears said.

52 Comments

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  • RonnieR Feb 1, 2008

    Most politicians, that are smart, have their party install a
    phone line and FAX machine in their office for political business. That way when they politic they're not using
    guvment property. Those workers who aren't politicans,
    should not do political work on the guvment's time.

    Purdue made a novice mistake as far the security stuff.
    Smart ones schedule official business at the location
    where they're going and then do the political stuff in
    the evening.

  • ratherbnnc Feb 1, 2008

    I hate to tell the purists on here, but courts have held that employees have the right to use their employer's property for small amounts of personal use as long as it doesn't cost the employer. You can do online banking, check personal e-mail, etc. No, this doesn't mean you can do a lot of it on their time, but in state government we were particularly cautious about allowing *some* use. There is a place where common sense and moderation prevail.
    carlostheass

    I hate to tell you carlos. I dont know where you get your information from, but, I work for the State and personal use of state computers is not allowed. Clearly in the state policies. Only time it can be used for personal use is to email family about delays in getting home, travel corrections, etc.

  • Space Mountain Jan 31, 2008

    As long as they still got their work done, who cares.

  • carlostheass Jan 31, 2008

    I hate to tell the purists on here, but courts have held that employees have the right to use their employer's property for small amounts of personal use as long as it doesn't cost the employer. You can do online banking, check personal e-mail, etc. No, this doesn't mean you can do a lot of it on their time, but in state government we were particularly cautious about allowing *some* use. There is a place where common sense and moderation prevail.

  • superman Jan 31, 2008

    Richard Moore and John Edwards should both be put in a rowboat together and pushed out to sea. Both of them are self serving selfish politicans. They have nothing to contribute being in public office.

  • TheBullCity Jan 31, 2008

    Sounds like partisan politics to me. I think needs to audit the auditor. We already know he's not on the up and up. See:

    http://www.wral.com/news/local/politics/story/1780707/
    http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/1233356/

  • Through a glass darkly Jan 31, 2008

    "The Republicans are more aspiring." Sorry, but I'm not sure what you mean here. Did you mean 'inspiring'? Or, did you mean the Republicans have a greater desire to be governor?

  • Get_Serious Jan 31, 2008

    Gotta love it when a politician "rips" one.

  • doodad Jan 31, 2008

    Read each candidate's statements here in WRAL.

    The Republicans are more aspiring. We've seen enough of what Democrats have done for NC in the legislature.

  • doogaad Jan 31, 2008

    Moore and Purdue be fighten for the little peoples who don't have computers

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