Some Spokane County employees apparently are doing more with their computers than crunching numbers, processing invoices and writing memos.
A few have been spied dealing themselves cards and avoiding bombs.
Responding to the latest in a series of internal complaints, commissioners Tuesday outlawed all games on county computers.
That means no more playing Solitaire and Minesweeper - games included in Windows software packages - or any other digital diversions downloaded onto publicly owned PCs.
Even on breaks or at lunchtime.
“There’s enough nonsense going on here,” Commissioner Steve Hasson said. “It has to stop. We’ve only got time here to do one thing, and that’s work our little butts off.”
A Nov. 20 letter from an anonymous employee to commissioners gave them two weeks to ban computer games or “I will go talk to the newspaper.”
Commissioners solved the problem quicker than the click of a mouse: Effective immediately, employees are ordered to kill any games on their computer.
The letter writer claimed to have witnessed rank-and-file workers, supervisors and managers throughout county government playing games during working hours.
“To say the least it is very upsetting to me,” the employee wrote. “I am a dedicated employee who is a rare sort (I guess) in the idea that I am paid to work.”
Fran Boxer, assistant to the county’s chief administrative officer, told commissioners she has received “a lot” of complaints about parks department workers playing the games.
Another employee who didn’t want to be identified said she has seen the games played in the prosecutor’s office, and human resources and planning departments.
The games became available within the past five years when the county started buying personal computers. Now, 750 employees - nearly half of the work force - are equipped with PCs.
The games originally were intended by Microsoft as a training tool in the use of the mouse. But that argument is no longer valid, officials said, because the latest Windows package has a mouse tutorial.
Vickie Birkenthal, director of information services, and a few other department heads already ban their employees from playing computer games, even during lunch and breaks.
Birkenthal said it’s up to each supervisor to ensure their workers are honoring the countywide ban crafted Tuesday.
“We don’t make ourselves the software police,” she said. “I would think that truly it’s not that prevalent, that there are a few abusers.”
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