The County wants to pull the plug on Chris Prevatt

Norberto Santana Jr. at the Orange County Register wrote a piece in this morning’s paper about a recent investigation of TheLiberalOC.com blogger and county worker Chris Prevatt that is being done by the county.

County officials are investigating blogger Chris Prevatt, who works in the county’s health care agency and posts commentaries at the site Liberal OC, for visiting the site during work hours.

County CEO Tom Mauk denies that the probe into Prevatt is politically motivated, adding that such investigations are triggered by complaints. There have not been any probes into Republican bloggers that Mauk can recall.


The county’s criticism comes after Prevatt posted this article where he criticized County Supervisor Chris Norby for his opposition to government-funded ethnic outreach programs and he posted the Photoshoped photo of Norby as the “Darth Norby.”

Two days later, Prevatt says, health care agency supervisors came to his desk, confiscated his computer and began an investigation.

A Norby aide admits he mentioned the post to a senior county official but did not call for an investigation.

The Oct. 27 memo issued to Prevatt said he was being investigated for misusing county computers and time.

The Register article quoted a few conservative bloggers including The Flash Report’s Jon Fleishman. Fleishman said “I’d be awfully careful if I was a county employee to post critical stories about your boss.”

Which is a decent point, one that I’ve brought up to Chris in multiple conversations. But he won’t hear it. “I’m not afraid to criticize. If we’ve become a society where we can’t criticize our elected officials, then we’ve lost our way and need a reality check,” Prevatt said to the Register.

[The Orange County Register Story] [Orange Juice’s post regarding this story] [Total Buzz link to Darth Norby Photo] [Chris’ original post re: Darth Norby]

  9 comments for “The County wants to pull the plug on Chris Prevatt

  1. K. Fullington
    November 24, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    Chris, the county Gov’t. should be probing your day (work) time activity. I don’t want you or anyone else using my tax dollars to burn up the net. So, some type of penalty would very much be in order. Please, this has nothing to do with your (our) First Amendment
    rights……TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.

  2. November 24, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    yeah, i’m afraid you opened yourself up to this by blogging at work. on “company” time. any company or other org has every right to do just this. the sad part is that the overkill (i.e., confiscation of your computer, “investigation”) can’t really be challenged.

    a reasonably response, on their part, would be to have your supervisor speak with you and/or write you up.

    sorry man.

  3. November 24, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Fullington and Serrach:

    If I had actually blogged from work, I would agree that there should be a penalty.

    But I did not blog from work.

    I blogged on my lunch break and not on county time or equipment.

    Sorry, I did nothing wrong here and that fact could have been easily determined without a full scale inquisition.

  4. November 24, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    word. i stand corrected. good luck with your fight, i look forward to seeing egg on their faces. :-)

  5. November 24, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    Hang in there Chris. This is just making the county managers look stupid. Quite frankly I thought Norby had thicker skin. Guess I was wrong…

  6. November 25, 2006 at 11:34 am

    Art:

    Do you have any evidence Norby is behind this, or are you just jumping to conclusions again?

    Judging from what Chris says, the county could have readily determined that he didn’t blog from work without taking his computer and making such a big deal about.

    But I don’t think it has anything to do with Chris being a Democrat. If I were a county employee and posted a vicious attack against Lou Correa using the same posting method Chris used so it appeared I was blogging at work, the same thing would have happened to me. Not because I’m a Republican, but because I think Thomas Mauk has it in for bloggers and Chris is the only one he can lay a finger on.

  7. November 25, 2006 at 11:51 am

    Jubal,

    From the article: “A Norby aide admits he mentioned the post to a senior county official but did not call for an investigation.” As I recall, Mr. Norby has previously gone down the road of similar course. When Rusty Kennedy of the Human Relations Commission asked, using HRC (County) email to ask supporters to contact the Board, in particular Norby , and encourage them not to kill the Commission’s funding, Norby was very vocal about his displeasure over the “misuse of County resources.”

    Or more recently it was Norby who blew a gasket over an HCA employee sending an email to her fellow employees reminding them to vote in favor of the salary adjustment.

    Norby is responsible for the actions of his aides on his behalf. A mention of a post from a staff member directly to the Deputy Agency Director is the same as directly asking for an investigation.

  8. Jubal
    November 25, 2006 at 2:41 pm

    Chris:

    Thta’s because Rusty Kennedy was misusing county resources. I think what your case and Rusty’s case are very different.

    The same with the HCA employee case you mention.

    A mention of a post from a staff member directly to the Deputy Agency Director is the same as directly asking for an investigation.

    That is most definitely not the same thing. You may want to give Chris Norby and his staff the same benefit of the doubt the county should have shown you.

  9. November 25, 2006 at 5:29 pm

    Matt,

    It very well could be the case that there was no intention on the part of Norby and his staff that an investigation be conducted, but they could have conceived that it was a likely result. Since this overly zealous “investigation” was launched by the HCA Assistant Agency Director, maybe it was initiated in retaliation for my criminal complaint made against the him alleging conspiracy to defraud the federal government and the federal investigation that resulted in the County having to refund to the feds over $143,000 in mismanaged grant funds. As I recall, it was the same Deputy Agency Director who in his duel role as the HCA Chief Compliance Officer determined that my allegations of misconduct and retaliation could not be substantiated.

    Any legitimate investigation should have been conducted outside the Health Care Agency management structure because of clear conflicts of interest. The fact that it was not, and that the HR Analyst assigned to manage the ‘investigation” was also implicated in the same criminal complaint, event though she is not assigned to my Division any longer, demonstrates at least to me, that a legitimate reason for the investigation is unlikely. I find it suspicious that there is an investigation of my conduct seven months after the feds demand their money back. It is possible that the blog post is simply a convenient excuse to conceal a different motivation.

    It is clearly to me that it is against the law for any employer to initiate a full scale investigation of an employees overall computer activity and use because of a political comment on a blog because it serves to prohibit or discourage political activity and speech. There were no legitimate performance deficiencies that could have motivated this investigation. Mauk has admitted that such investigations are conducted only if there are complaints. I have to ask a simple question, who made the complaint. The only indication of anyone “complaining” is Supervisor Norby or his staff and Norby is quote as saying he thought the post was funny.

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