The Washington Times

TV producer’s story inspires others to request family records

I received so much great feedback after writing about my coworker, WRAL-TV producer Miranda Dotson, who requested her grandfather’s military records and surprised her father with what she found.

Many of you reached out to tell me that you plan to request your family members’ military records, too.

Jim McElhatton, a reporter at The Washington Times, shared his own experience with me. Last year, he received military records for his late father, who was a pilot in the Navy.

“No medals or war stories, but very proud of what I learned,” Jim told me. He sent me a link to a blog he wrote about his father’s records. It’s very touching, definitely worth reading. Here’s a snippet:

While given high marks as an aviator, “his most valuable asset is his deep concern for the welfare of his men,” one performance review said.

I’d love to know what fascinating things you uncover about your family members. You can reach me on Twitter @RecordsGeek or by email, kahinchcliffe@gmail.com.

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Records show federal agencies struggle with porn problem

“For two hours a day, a General Services Administration employee visited dating websites, scoured the Internet for pornography and even maintained a user account at an X-rated social networking site.”

That’s how reporter Jim McElhatton began his May 11 story in The Washington Times. He filed a Freedom of Information Act request and found that federal agencies were struggling with a major porn problem.

“The details were startling,” McElhatton wrote. “An unidentified employee, at the GS-14 pay band earning up to $138,000 a year in Washington based on locality pay, had about 7,000 pornographic images on his work computer. He was even watching porn when an agent showed up at his desk to interview him, according to the EPA’s office of inspector general.”

The problem went beyond employees watching porn at work. The websites they were visiting posed a security risk, McElhatton found, “giving computer viruses inroads to attack government servers.”

While McElhatton did this story on a national level, the same can be done at a local level. Have you ever filed a public records request to see what websites government officials in your area are visiting?

The Tampa Bay Times did in 2006 and found that three county commissioners visited various sites during commission meetings, even while members of the public spoke before them.

“Ted Schrader tracks stocks on tbo.com. Fellow Pasco County Commissioner Steve Simon favors eBay and golf-related sites like hirekogolf.com. Commissioner Pat Mulieri fiddles with her America Online e-mail account,” the paper found.

What’s happening in your area? File a public records request. I’d love to know what you find.