Home / Articles / News / News / State worker charged with child porn keeps job
Print this Article
Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 11:41 am

State worker charged with child porn keeps job

art9204
What would your employer do if he found pornography, including hundreds of depictions of children having sex, on your work computer?

If you have a job at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, the answer is not much.

Eric Knuth, an employee in the university’s information technology services department, remains on the job despite a recommendation that he be terminated after investigators with the state Executive Inspector General’s Office found pornography on a university-issued laptop, according to documents released last month by the state Executive Ethics Commission.

Investigators found 1,665 sexually explicit files on a laptop issued to Knuth, including more than 300 animated images of children having sex, according to documents released by the commission. Felony charges have been pending in Coles County Circuit Court since November of last year.

The inspector general in Illinois recommended that Eastern Illinois University fire Knuth and one other employee who had pornography on a state computer. But both employees remain on the public payroll after serving two-day suspensions, according to documents released by the ethics commission, which has named Knuth but redacted the identity of the other employee from reports and correspondence.

The university initiated termination proceedings in December, according to documents released by the ethics commission, but backed off after co-workers and a former supervisor said that they believed that personal use of computers by employees was allowed. The university faced “significant risks” if discharge proceedings continued against Knuth and his unnamed co-worker, university general counsel Robert Miller told the inspector general’s office in a Feb. 3 letter.

“Our outside counsel has advised that both employees would likely sue the university for employment discrimination and other reasons, and we have been advised that based on the facts of these cases, asserting a successful defense would be difficult,” Miller wrote in the letter addressed to Neil Olson, supervising assistant inspector general.

In the letter, Miller wrote that Knuth, who earns $69,887 a year, would be terminated upon conviction in the pending criminal case. Janice Hunt, university spokeswoman, said that the university could not comment on cases regarding specific employees. Knuth could not be reached for comment.

In addition to inappropriate use of computers, Knuth could not account for more than five hours of time for which he was paid over a five-day period in 2008, when state investigators put him and at least six co-workers under surveillance, according to the report released last month. One unnamed employee could not account for more than 11 hours of time during the five-day period, according to the report.

The university’s handling of the Knuth case didn’t satisfy the inspector general, which has no authority to force the university to adopt recommendations.

“We understand Mr. Knuth and (redacted) assert that they were allowed to use university computers for personal use; however, even if true, no employee could reasonably assert that personal use of state equipment includes creating a data warehouse of pornographic images, including animated photos of children engaging in sexual activity,” wrote inspector general Ricardo Meza in a March 15 letter to Miller. “In fact, in a recent decision, a court held that a public employer may discharge an employee for using an employer’s computer to access pornography even though the employer does not have a policy specifically banning it.”

Hunt said that the university has tightened policies since impropriety in the institution’s computer department came to light.

“When university officials learned of the investigation in 2008, permission to use university laptops for personal use granted by former supervisors was rescinded, and this policy was re-affirmed in January, 2011,” Hunt wrote in an email to Illinois Times. “The university does not permit, accept or condone inappropriate use of university equipment, regardless of whether it occurs on campus, at home or when an employee is off duty.”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.
Log in to use your Facebook account with
IllinoisTimes

Login With Facebook Account



Recent Activity on IllinoisTimes

Calendar

  • Fri
    29
  • Sat
    30
  • Sun
    31
  • Mon
    1
  • Tue
    2
  • Wed
    3
  • Thu
    4