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Turnpike employees disciplined over sexually explicit emails

| Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, 6:06 p.m.

HARRISBURG — An internal investigation by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission found as many as a dozen employees were sending or receiving sexually explicit emails on the agency's system, officials told the Tribune-Review.

The employees, whose names weren't made public, were disciplined with reprimands and some suspensions, agency spokesman Carl DeFebo said.

CEO Mark Compton said sharing pornographic emails on the government system violated the commission's policy, leading to the discipline.

“None of them were senior-level employees,” Compton said. He said the agency's compliance department conducted the investigation.

DeFebo said he could not provide specifics when asked the time period involved.

The discovery of pornography in another state agency follows controversy for the past two months that cost more than a dozen current and former attorney general's employees their jobs and resulted in the suspension and subsequent retirement of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, Seamus McCaffery.

McCaffery sent sexually explicit emails from his private account to a former agent in the Attorney General's Office. The retired agent, a friend of McCaffery's, allegedly distributed the emails to others in the office. That took place through 2012.

Sixty-one attorney general's employees were disciplined two weeks ago. Some transmitted sexually explicit emails as late as this summer, the office said. Of those, six were fired, two resigned and 11 were suspended. Others received reprimands or were ordered to take sexual harassment classes.

“There should be a full review of every agency,” said Harrisburg activist Gene Stilp. He believes that could be done by the state Inspector General, since it involves the use of state equipment and email systems.

“It looks like it would have to be something set up by the new governor,” when Democrat Tom Wolf is sworn in Jan. 20, Stilp said.

In October, Attorney General Kathleen Kane let reporters who had filed open records requests view samples of sexually explicit emails that eight former office employees shared.

“I don't think we can comment at this time,” said Kane's spokeswoman, Renee Martin.

The disclosure was made the week after the final two cases in a Turnpike corruption investigation were resolved with plea agreements. Former CEO Joe Brimmeier of Ross and former Chief Operating Officer George Hatalowich of Harrisburg each pleaded guilty to one felony charge of conflict of interest and received five years' probation.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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