A Social Security Administration (SSA) Administrative Law Judge has lost his job for, among other things, using government computers to store explicit photos. (Steverson v. Social Security Administration, C.A.F.C. No. 2009-3287 (nonprecedential), 6/17/10)
London Steverson worked for the Downey, California branch office of SSA. The agency filed a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board seeking to remove Steverson based on four charges. One charge was misuse of his official government computer. One specification was that Steverson has used his agency computer to view and store "sexually oriented material"—more than a thousand of them. Another specification related to his use of the computer for private business ventures, a violation of the agency’s policy.
Steverson was also charged with misuse of official agency letterhead for personal matters, lack of candor during his investigatory interview, and use of his business address for receiving personal mail despite the explicit agency policy against this practice.
Following the procedure for dismissing an AJ, the MSPB held a hearing. Eventually the full board found that the charges had been upheld and found there was good cause to remove Steverson. (Opinion pp. 2-4)
The appeals court has now affirmed Steverson’s removal. In its decision, the court notes "Judge Steverson engaged in conduct unbecoming of an Administrative Law Judge, misused government property, displayed a lack of candor with an investigatory official, and failed to follow agency policy." (p. 6)
In short, the court found this added up to ample cause to remove Steverson.
Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.