Brevard County employee resigns for movie-sharing
Other workers under investigation for using county equipment to movie-share
An employee of Brevard County's information technology department has resigned as a result of an investigation of the use of county computer equipment to share movies and recorded music with other county employees.
County Manager Stockton Whitten said county officials are continuing their investigation to determine how widespread the sharing of the movies and music was among county employees, and how long it had been going on, Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports.
Brevard County Human Resources Director Frank Abbate said he is aware of six to eight other information technology department employees who indicated they participated in the sharing of movies and music to some degree. He said there is no indication at this point that employees of other county departments were involved.
Deputy County Attorney Shannon Wilson identified the employee who resigned as Bobby Stephens.
Abbate said Stephens was an information systems technician employed by the county since 2001.
Whitten said Stephens "chose to resign" last week, rather than continue with a disciplinary hearing process that had begun.
"It just seemed to be a bad employee who wanted to share with others his movies and music and such," Whitten said. "From time to time, people do stupid things. The moment we knew about it, we took action" to begin an investigation.
Whitten said information technology department management found out about the issue about three weeks ago, and began an investigation, with help from the county attorney's office and the county's human resources department.
The Brevard County Sheriff's Office also assisted in the investigation, but no criminal charges have been filed, Whitten said.
Whitten said, even if the sharing of movies and music was done during lunch hours or break time, "it's an improper use of county equipment. There is a prohibition on placing those types of items on the county network. That's against county policies and county procedures."
Whitten said the county "will take appropriate disciplinary action" against other employees, if warranted.
Richard Neff, an e-commerce and anti-piracy lawyer based in Manhattan Beach, California, said Brevard County officials probably don't have any legal liability for the material on the county's computer equipment, since officials weren't aware of it and got rid of it once they discovered it.
And while individual county employees who did access the entertainment likely are in the wrong, Neff said it probably wasn't a serious enough misstep to warrant more than a wrist slap.
"Yes, you do have a violation when you knowingly download something that you presume to be pirated or illegal," Neff said. "I don't regard it's that serious of a violation by the individual consumer. Something was made available, and they could have said, 'yes' or 'no.' They should have said 'no.' I would send a memo, if I was the county attorney, saying that if employees have access to anything like that, it's your duty to report to your supervisor."
"You can presume you are downloading illegal content or leave it at that," Neff said.
Wilson declined to comment further, saying release of information could affect what she said was "an ongoing investigation" that has "potential for other disciplinary action."
Whitten said the county also "is taking precautions to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Abbate said Stephens' personnel file did not have other disciplinary action until earlier this year, when he received a written reprimand related to the alleged use of unprofessional language in the workplace.
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