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Fire district investigates use of Internet at station

A computer has been seized and an investigation begun within the Spring Hill Fire Rescue District regarding use of the Internet at the Station 3 firehouse.

Fire district officials declined to discuss the nature of their concerns Tuesday. But it appears related to an audit of computer usage by Hernando County government. Some, but not all, of the fire district's Internet-linked computers are tied to the county server.

Spring Hill Fire Chief J.J. Morrison said a computer was seized from Station 3, which is on Spring Hill Drive, east of Linden Drive. His investigation is ongoing.

Hernando County Clerk of Court Karen Nicolai said a "very limited" test was completed recently to gauge what types of Internet sites county employees have been viewing on their government computers.

Nicolai would not discuss what the test found, but a report on her findings will be forthcoming. Gary Allen, the county's technical services director, said software used by the county can track Internet traffic as far back as three months.

Fire commission chairman Jeffrey Hollander said he was aware that an investigation was under way. So was fire commissioner Darryl Hamilton. Neither commissioner had details about the investigation beyond its concern with Internet usage.

Nicolai said her office is now doing annual checks of Internet usage to deter county employees from spending too much time using the Internet for personal reasons and also to discourage visits to inappropriate Internet sites.

The checks were prompted in part by the discovery last March that Chuck Lewis, Hernando County's regulatory and franchise administrator, had been using county computers to surf sexually oriented Internet sites. Lewis was suspended without pay for two weeks.

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