County Commissioner Ted Schrader, who had steadfastly defended the use of his public computer to surf the Web during public meetings, said Monday that he regretted the use.
"From this commissioner, it is not going to happen again," said Schrader, who scanned stock quotes and travel sites as the public spoke. "I just view it as a hard lesson."
The St. Petersburg Times reported Sunday that Commissioners Schrader, Pat Mulieri and Steve Simon used their public computers to scan Web sites that were unrelated to county business as they presided over public meetings. In Schrader's case, the use amounted to hours.
During the three-year period reviewed by the Times, rank-and-file county staffers were fired for using public computers for personal reasons, including two last year.
After the report, Schrader said he was focused on regaining the public's trust
"Whether (the use) was right or wrong, the public perception is certainly harmed. It is tough to get that confidence back again. That troubles me the most, quite honestly," Schrader said.
Simon said he proposes that the commission establish a policy for its Web use.
"I've disabled my Web browser until we are able to decide what we want to do. What do we want our policy to be?" Simon said.
The policy that prohibits county staffers from using public computers for personal use "at all times" applies to everyone except the commissioners.
Mulieri, who scanned her personal e-mail account and the Web site for Pasco-Hernando Community College, where she is a professor emeritus, did not return messages Monday.
Both Schrader and Simon maintained that they never diverted substantial amounts of attention away from the public meetings. They said the Web surfing was merely in the background.
"I never even dreamed it would be a real problem," Schrader said.
Garrett Therolf covers Pasco County government. He can be reached toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6232 and in west Pasco at 869-6232. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.