Nathan Hayward III, Delaware's secretary of transportation, made a few enemies when his zero-tolerance policy netted at least 19 employees who were accused of viewing pictures of nekkid people and sending sexually charged emails at work.
Enemies who know their way around a computer.
As the firings and forced resignations work their way through the system, a court of public opinion called FireNathan.com is currently vilifying the First State official.
It's ugly stuff: Postings of an embarrassing resume that led to a high-paying job. A series of cartoons that show Hayward's office as den of Dilberts. Photographs of Hayward in a hard hat that recall Michael Dukakis in a tank. A freewheeling blog where the disgruntled can relieve themselves.
A hearing is scheduled for this week. According to the News Journal, members of the House Personnel Practices Committee are concerned that Hayward did not show enough tolerance toward the workers, and that state merit rules may have been violated.
"All of these people are mortified because the general public thinks that they are trafficking in child pornography," said committee co-chair Rep. Nancy Wagner, R-Dover North.
Wagner said a lawyer representing some of the fired workers told her the the material was not pornographic -- "nothing here that the average person would consider to be pornography."
Some of the material, she said, included a horoscope and photos taken at a worker's cousin's wedding.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, The State News obtained a letter Hayward wrote in February that spelled out the offenses: "Everyone confronted to date has been found to be exchanging (receive and send) absolutely prohibited pornographic, sexually explicit, or otherwise personally offensive jokes, stories, pictures, cartoons, videos, audios, or similar material," he wrote.
"Some have racial and/or ethnic overtones. All are disgusting. None in any way can be condoned. Nobody can claim they are being disciplined for accidental receipt of unacceptable material."
The webmaster responded to an email from Blinq, saying he or she preferred anonymity, and that the site went online Aug. 17 to provide "a humorous twist to many of the current events at the department, while seeking to provide stress relief to the remaining employees suffering in the current atmosphere."
The following comes from an email the Webmaster sent to Delaware papers:
In February, at least 10 state employees were either forced to resign
or eventually terminated due to what was labeled pornography. In
actuality, there was no pornography- only mildly inappropriate
material that deserved nothing more than a reprimand. None of the
employees in question had ever received any discipline in any form,
and some had worked 10 to 15 years with the state. That these
individuals were forced to resign or terminated without warning for
these innocuous emails undermines even the most rudimentary sense of
fairness. The word pornography was, no doubt, used to end all
questions and research by the press. Many Senators and
Representatives were contacted but most were understandably not
interested in defending individuals accused of pornography.
In July, at least 9 more DelDOT employees were dismissed with
allegations that they all were also viewing pornography. The feeling
was, based on the criteria they used to fire the employees in February
and July, that anyone could be next. Today, the department is still in
turmoil as rumors of a third round of firings swirl. Morale is at an
all-time low. Little work gets accomplished, as everyone is more
concerned with where they can get a job if they draw the unlucky
straw. And the press only seems to parrot the claims of the Secretary
of Transportation, who has made this issue his legacy, while silently