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Child porn found on Monte Public Works computer

This is the letter Mayor Estes sent to the Washington State Patrol, citing a need to look more into “the child pornography issue.”
This is the letter Mayor Estes sent to the Washington State Patrol, citing a need to look more into “the child pornography issue.”

MONTESANO — Members of the Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children have agreed to look into potential criminal issues involving inappropriate material found on computers in the city of Montesano’s Public Works division.

Montesano Mayor Ken Estes requested that the State Patrol do additional forensic analysis of the computers last month and said that the State Patrol agreed to work on the case. Estes provided a letter confirming that the city had found child pornography on city-owned computers.

The city conducted a three-month investigation into whether the city of Montesano’s Public Works crew was looking at pornography or other inappropriate materials when the child pornography was found and the Montesano Police Department was immediately notified, according to City Administrator Kristy Powell. Powell said that the State Patrol was being used because they have expertise in computer forensics and have a specific division geared at solving crimes involving child pornography.

“It is of great concern to me as mayor of the city that we have found questionable pictures of children on our work computers,” Mayor Estes writes to a sergeant with the State Patrol in an Aug. 4 letter released to The Vidette through a verbal public records request. “It is very important that we know if there are more of these pictures, violation of workplace policies or other illegal activities. It has been disconcerting to me to discover that our city equipment may have been used for this purpose.”

Estes says the city’s internal investigation is not yet finished and likely won’t be finished until the end of September at a minimum. Estes said that the city’s investigation will run parallel with whatever investigation the State Patrol decides to do.

Powell says that Troopers have a backlog of cases and may not get to the Montesano case for another eight months or so.

“A local company performed a cursory review, which revealed a number of pornographic pictures, escort and dating sites, shopping and general time wasting,” Estes writes to the sergeant. “I ask that you include a search for all of the items above on all city computers in all categories, also include thumbnails, social media, etc.”

Estes pledged the support of the city of Montesano if the State Patrol needs search warrants.

“I understand that if the investigation reveals any other images of child pornography or a child in explicit situations, that you will immediately investigate and revert to a criminal case, if needed,” Estes writes.

Powell says that the city of Montesano turned over six computers and two iPads to the State Patrol for review.

She says the city is now looking to purchase a server and specific terminals so that members of the Public Works crew can still use computers during the investigation.

Estes declined to answer specific questions about the investigation, including whether Public Works employees had individual passwords that could be tracked and whether the computers could be accessed by the general public or were left in unsecured areas. Estes said the investigation is ongoing and questions would be answered at a later time.

The Montesano City Council last month approved a new personnel policy, which includes computer usage. City employees had to sign to get a copy of the new personnel handbook.

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