Toronto children's aid workers disciplined over porn e-mails
By VICTOR MALAREK
Wednesday, June 19, 2002, Page A9
Six workers have been fired and 26 suspended without pay from Toronto's Catholic Children's Aid Society for sending e-mails to each other containing hard-core pornography and offensive jokes. Another six received letters of warning.
Of the 38 workers disciplined, four are male and 34 female, and of the six who were fired, four are women.
Mary McConville, executive director of the CCAS, said yesterday that the scandal has rocked the agency to its core. "It's very distressing for a child welfare agency to be involved in activity of this nature."
Ms. McConville said no child pornography was discovered in the investigation and the agency's protection services have not been compromised. "However, the misconduct that did occur is completely unacceptable in a child-welfare agency and a Catholic organization."
One of the employees who was fired was a child-protection worker but was in an administrative capacity. Another was a case aid worker who dealt with people on the phone. Of those suspended for three to five days, six got the maximum number because they are front-line supervisors. Another six are child-protection workers, one a case aid worker and 13 administrative support workers.
The CCAS has a total staff of 500.
The e-mail porn was discovered in early April during an investigation of a sexual-harassment complaint at one of the agency's branch offices. Action to shut it down was swift and firm.
Ms. McConville said the worst material circulating through the agency computer network was "sexually explicit pornography which someone downloaded externally from a sex porn site. The mildest end of the spectrum, if I can put it that way, was off-colour jokes and cartoons.
"Obviously the discipline meted out was a reflection of that misconduct."
Ms. McConville said that when she was first informed of the e-mail porn activity she was "quite stunned and extremely disappointed." She said the entire episode has had a devastating effect on morale.
"The staff are appalled and completely puzzled that people would do this in a professional workplace, especially in an organization like this one," she said.