Integrity boss’s childish emails from unlocked PC

 

An Education Department integrity unit boss busted sending childish emails from an employee's computers escaped punishment despite a substantiated complaint to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

The executive director who makes six figures a year and leads a team of investigators, was caught twice accessing a male staffer's computer, once to allegedly email messages of "unrequited love" to a married female superior.

The public servant was also investigated over claims he used the same subordinate's computer months later to email another of the man's female superiors, praising her management style.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the computer hacking claims against executive director (integrity and employee relations) David Miller - first made by a whistleblower to the CCC - triggered the department to hire an external investigator in May and became a headache at the highest echelons.

Mr Miller's unit dishes out punishment to teachers and others caught breaking the rules - including computer hacking offences.

 

Education Queensland executive director (integrity and employee relations) David Miller
Education Queensland executive director (integrity and employee relations) David Miller

 

The public servant was also investigated over claims he used the same subordinate's computer months later to email another of the man's female superiors, praising her management style.

In August, the internal investigation found allegations Mr Miller had "accessed the departmental computers of two officers without their authority to be substantiated".

But sources within the department have expressed anger at the decision not to take formal disciplinary action against Mr Miller over the incidents, raising concerns it sent the wrong message given his seniority.

It is understood the whistleblower had raised issue with the lack of punishment with the department's deputy director-general Craig Allen, saying Mr Miller's behaviour was out of step with the standards expected of someone of such a high position and responsibility for integrity issues across the Education Department.

Mr Allen, who ordered the investigation, defended his decision to take "management action" against Mr Miller and two others by writing to the trio about his concerns and expectations before closing the matter.

He said his response took into account undisclosed mitigating factors and the officers' otherwise unblemished discipline history.

Insiders say there are also concerns those unwittingly caught up in the matter had been reproached for simply failing to lock their computer or report Mr Miller's suspected wrongdoing.

The probe came amid wide-ranging staff concerns about blowouts in investigation times due to failings in triaging complaints, lengthy staff suspensions and high staff turnover in the unit.

The Queensland Association of State School Principals released a position paper in March that was highly critical of the way in which allegations were being handled by the department.

Feedback from members raised concerns that those under investigation were treated as though they were guilty based on an initial complaint, kept in the dark about the complaint details and status of the investigation, unsupported through the process and that investigations were typically prolonged, causing uncertainty and distress to individuals and their school communities.

 

Education Minister Grace Grace
Education Minister Grace Grace

 

Mr Miller is a journalism graduate who climbed the corporate ladder at the Australian Taxation Office before joining the department in mid-2018, according to LinkedIn profile.

A whistleblower complained in March that it was treated as a running joke in the office that Mr Miller had sent an email from a young male subordinate's account to the man's female superior after he forgot to lock his computer.

The email is alleged to have effectively expressed the man's unrequited love for the married woman, a director who oversees investigations, according to the CCC complaint.

It is alleged Mr Miller later sent a text message to the same female director to the effect that he heard that she had a secret admirer.

The woman allegedly replied by referring to the crime of computer hacking, but Mr Miller passed it off as a harmless joke, according to the complaint.

The investigation substantiated an allegation that the woman had failed to report the suspected wrongdoing of Mr Miller.

It also found the male subordinate did not report it and had not locked his computer.

According to the complaint, the man had told colleagues he got what he deserved for forgetting to lock his computer and looked at Mr Miller's joke as a deterrent.

But the whistleblower complained Mr Miller's actions were in no way an appropriate management intervention for a minor breach such as forgetting to lock a computer.

"... The fact that he embarrassed (the staffer) (who is young and single while [his superior] is married) in this way seems to me an unforgivable breach of trust and evidence of poor judgment and behaviour unbecoming (of) any senior leader, let alone the head of the integrity unit," the complaint states.

It was alleged a second incident involved Mr Miller sending an email from the same subordinate's unlocked computer to another female superior praising her management style.

The subordinate only learned of its existence when the woman, a senior department officer, replied, at which point the man clarified he had not sent the email, according to the complaint.

It is understood his superior, who had no adverse findings against her, replied by raising the possibility of an offence under a section of the Criminal Code dealing with computer hacking.

Education Minister Grace Grace said it was an "operational matter for the Department to handle, which they have."

Mr Miller did not respond to a request for comment.

An Education Department spokesman said the matter was now closed after an external investigation and it would not comment further for confidentiality reasons.

 

A sticker in the toilets of Education House posted as part of a campaign for staff to secure their computers following a public inquiry
A sticker in the toilets of Education House posted as part of a campaign for staff to secure their computers following a public inquiry

 

HARD LINE ON HACKING BEFORE UNAUTHORISED USE

When integrity boss David Miller jumped on to the unlocked computer of his subordinate, the heat was already on Government to justify how it was protecting confidential information.

According to a CCC complaint, Mr Miller - the highest ranking official in the integrity unit, which is responsible for investigating and metering out punishments to misbehaving departmental staff - accessed the unlocked computer of his young, male subordinate for a second time the same month he appeared before the CCC's Operation Impala hearings.

The CCC hearings were to examine the impacts of unauthorised access to and disclosure of information on agencies and the people whose information is accessed without consent.

It looked at how the public sector was managing confidential personal information.

Mr Miller was not accused of any wrongdoing, but gave evidence at the November 2019 hearing on how the department policed the misuse of information of the OneSchool database.

Among questions were those on the process for referring complaints to the police about alleged computer hacking offences under the Criminal Code.

Under the Criminal Code, computer hacking and misuse is defined as "a person who uses a restricted computer without the consent of the computer's controller."

A restricted computer is one that requires a code to gain access and that the computer's controller has taken steps to withhold knowledge of the code from others.

The Operation Impala inquiry triggered a campaign in which stickers and posters were plastered around Education Department headquarters reminding staff to lock their computers.

"Beryl could be sending a snarky email from you to your boss right now," one sticker posted on the toilet mirror in Education House read.

Mr Miller's decision to send emails from the subordinate's unlocked computer came despite his tough treatment of those accused of hacking, according to a whistleblower complaint.

It was alleged in the complaint Mr Miller at one stage was overheard telling his staff to "suspend the fu**er" upon being told of one teacher accused of inappropriately accessing OneSchool records.

The Education Department refused to comment on the claim this week.

 

 

Originally published as Integrity boss's childish emails from unlocked PC


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