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DeKalb County employee fired over porn seeks benefits

Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014 3:43 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, March 14, 2014 12:20 a.m. CST

SYCAMORE – A former DeKalb County employee who was fired for viewing pornography at work is fighting for unemployment benefits, claiming other county employees were doing it, too, court records show.

Steven C. Scoughton, 53, of DeKalb, filed an appeal this week in DeKalb County Court, after the Illinois Department of Employment Security Board of Review found he was not eligible for benefits because he was fired for misconduct.

Scoughton, a Marine veteran, claims that county supervisors condoned employees downloading and viewing pornography on county computers. He worked as a service officer for Veterans Assistance Commission from June 2008 to May 2013, making $20 an hour when he left, DeKalb County Finance Director Peter Stefan said.

DeKalb County Assistant State’s Attorney Stephanie Klein and Scoughton’s attorney, Charles Prorok of Rockford, said ethics rules prevented them from offering new information on pending litigation. But Klein said she was not aware of other county employees viewing pornography on their computers.

“I’m not aware of what evidence he has that other people were doing it, too,” Klein said Thursday afternoon. “That’s certainly something he’d have to produce as the case goes forward.”

Klein’s office has 35 days from Monday, the day the appeal was filed, to file a response, Prorok said.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security Board of Review didn’t think much of Scoughton’s argument, though.

“The claimant’s defense that everyone was downloading and viewing pornography on the employer’s computers, and that such behavior was condoned is unpersuasive as well as incredible,” the five-member board wrote in its decision. “If everyone in the office were stealing office supplies and the employer was aware and looked the other way, i.e., condoned it, would the claimant be justified in joining in on the stealing?

“If everyone is doing something wrong, it still remains wrong.”

Under Illinois law, unemployment benefits can be denied when an employee is fired for deliberately and willfully violating a reasonable work rule that either harms the employer or that the employee repeats despite warnings to stop, the decision states.

But Prorok questioned whether Scoughton was deliberately and wilfully violating a rule.

“Our position would be that if people were doing this on a regular basis, and he did it, how can that be wilful and deliberate violation?” Prorok said.

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