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Published: Thursday, 1/12/2006

City temp a regular on online forums

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
On Oct. 21,  Sassy Sarah  complained about a co-worker who said the Oct. 15 rioters in North Toledo were justifi ed. On Oct. 21, Sassy Sarah complained about a co-worker who said the Oct. 15 rioters in North Toledo were justifi ed.
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City of Toledo officials say Scott Leo got his engineering work done on time, so they paid little attention to exactly what he was doing on the computer.

Mr. Leo, operating with an Internet identity he called "Sassy Sarah," was using his city computer to access an online discussion group hosted by sportswrath.com - apparently hundreds of times a day.

Sassy Sarah's frequent appearance in online discussions during work hours was brought to city officials' attention Dec. 27 by a citizen who said he was irritated by the apparent misuse of taxpayers' computers and work time.

Since then, city officials have determined that the Web site was accessed 19,200 times between Aug. 18 and Nov. 2 - all from three computers in Mr. Leo's work area, and all with a password that was assigned to him.

Mr. Leo was an intern with the city for 14 months, until his resignation Nov. 20, according to Robert Williams, director of the Department of Public Utilities. He said Mr. Leo was provided to the city by Cardinal Temporary Services, which was paid $16.88 an hour.

The picture that pops up on Sassy Sarah's identity page is that of an attractive blonde, and Sassy Sarah often commented from the perspective of being a female.

Yesterday, Mr. Leo acknowledged being Sassy Sarah, but said fake identities are commonplace on the Internet.

"The Internet is full of people who make false claims. I wasn't going to say who I really was. That was stuff that I didn't think anybody would really care about," Mr. Leo said.

He insisted he did not frequently post comments and, when he did so, it was during one of his two 15-minute breaks or 30-minute lunch break.

Typically, members of the Web site open up topics of discussion, and then wait while other members post comments to a bulletin board.

According to the Web site, Sassy Sarah posted comments 6,622 times since Aug. 18, an average of about 45 times a day through yesterday and included times both before and after his workday. It was not possible to determine how many times Sassy Sarah reopened, or refreshed, the Web site to keep track of postings.

Sassy Sarah raised the topic of the North Toledo riot at 9:12 p.m. Oct. 16, a Sunday, and then posted again the following day at least four times by 6:05 a.m., and again at 8:34 a.m., 9 a.m., 9:11 a.m., 9:19 a.m., and 9:20 a.m.

On Oct. 13, Sassy Sarah posted a comment at 11:31 a.m. about the problem the city was having with manhole covers being stolen.

"This may be the stupidest thing in the world to be having a problem with, but it is a problem the city I work for is having," Sarah wrote.

Even after Mr. Leo left city employment, Sassy Sarah continued to post comments, posing as a city employee.

On Dec. 16, Sarah claimed to be one of the people in her division to interview a man for a foreman position, and then commented that he passed gas during the interview.

"Of course, the guy excused himself, but really after that it was hard for both of us to concentrate on the interview that much," Sassy Sarah wrote.

Mr. Williams said there were foreman openings in mid-December, but no one was interviewed. In any case, he said, an intern would not have been interviewing a job applicant.

Patsy Scott, director of the city's information services department, said she could not rule out the possibility that other people used Mr. Leo's password or his computer to access the same site.

Mr. Williams said the reports he had are that Mr. Leo did a good job.

"He was working on asset management software where he was working on the computer keying various materials, such as manholes, pipes, into a computer database," Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Williams said he spoke to the intern's supervisor, who said she was not aware of his Internet use, and was satisfied with his performance because he did the work he was assigned to do.

Mr. Williams said the city is tightening up its control of Internet access to flag Web sites that receive an inordinate number of hits.

Tom Fought, chief executive officer of Cardinal, said yesterday he heard nothing from the city about the situation and declined to confirm that Mr. Leo was one of his employees.

Mr. Leo, of Pemberville, said he graduated from the University of Toledo and is looking for a job. He said a story about his Internet use wasn't going to help.

On several occasions, Sassy Sarah's on-the-job Internet use drew criticism from "her" discussion partners.

During a chat on Monday, Oct. 3, about how much help should be offered to Hurricane Katrina victims, one member of the discussion group ripped into Sassy Sarah:

"I'm sure the Legal & Law abiding American Citizens of Toledo, Ohio greatly appreciate that you have enough down time to do some useful volunteer work while at your JOB," one participant wrote.

Mike Brubaker, a resident of Tennessee who tipped off the city about Sassy Sarah, said his son brought the Sassy Sarah e-mails to his attention.

"My son comes to me and says, 'This person works for the city of Toledo,'" said Mr. Brubaker. "He said, 'Are you allowed to look at sports Web sites while you're at work?' "

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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