Mayor Adrian M. Fenty continues to endear himself to the District’s civil service, today announcing that nine government employees have been fired for looking at Internet porn at work.

Fenty made the announcement this afternoon at One Judiciary Square, one of the District’s largest concentrations of municipal employees, flanked by City Administrator Dan Tangherlini, Acting Attorney General Peter Nickles, Chief Technology Officer Vivek Kundra, and Department of Human Resources Director Brender L. Gregory.

“This behavior isn’t just egregious,” Fenty said. “This behavior is reprehensible.”

The nine employees fired represent four city agencies: the Office of Property Management, the Office of Contracting and Procurement, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Child and Family Services Agency (who saw six employees fired recently in the wake of the Banita Jacks case). Fenty & Co. declined to release more details about the fired employees, citing likely appeals. Fenty did confirm, however, that the fired employees included both men and women.

One fired employee, according to figures released at the press conference, racked up 48,002 hits on allegedly pornographic sites during 2007. That works out to about 200 hits per business day. Besides the nine fired, 32 more were reprimanded in a more than a dozen other agencies, including the police department, the D.C. Public Schools, and the Executive Office of the Mayor.

Tangherlini said thresholds were determined as to how many hits warranted termination versus other forms of punishment. About 20,000 hits for the year was considered sufficient grounds for immediate firing, which represents about 100 hits per working day. “That seemed to be a logical cutoff,” he said. Anything over 20 hits a day, he says, represented “something that’s no longer possibly accidental” and required a lesser sanction.

And just who decided what was pornographic or not? Potter Stewart? Kundra told reporters that the District used the WebSense filtering program, which had been installed on about 10,000 of the District’s 30,000 total computers (which had apparently been logging sites but not blocking them), to determine which sites were pornographic or not. A definition listed on a graph posted at the press conference referred to sites “that display full or partial nudity in a sexual context but not sexual activity; erotica; sexual paraphernalia; sex-oriented businesses [such] as clubs, nightclubs, escort services” and sites that “depict or graphically describe sexual acts or activity, including exhibitionism; also, sites offering direct links to such sites.”

Kundra said that the District has had an acceptable-use policy for its computers in place since 1999 that bans accessing porn, among other things. Since the investigation began, he said, the District has purchased an additional 20,000 licenses to install WebSense on every government computer—-no immediate word on what that costs—-and the software has been set to block access to any explicit sites as of Jan. 2.

“We’ve set up this system so it will not happen again,” Tangherlini said.

Why just investigate porn? Nickles said that the cost of looking at other things, such as gambling or other banned personal uses, would have been more costly. “And I would suggest that one is more egregious that the other,” he said.

Nickles said there was no evidence that child pornography had been accessed.

The investigation, Fenty said, was kicked off in December after the Office of Property Management contacted the chief technology officer about an employee’s complaint concerning a co-worker’s porn use. The technology department then did a “detailed citywide forensic analysis” on the 10,000 computers that were running WebSense for the calendar year 2007. Those who were fired had their computers seized for a more in-depth investigation of their Internet use.

Exactly how much this hunt cost the District in money and man-hours was not immediately available. Will pass that on as soon as I get it.

UPDATE, 4:31 P.M.: The additional 20,000 copies of WebSense are costing the District $142,000. As far as how much the investigation cost, mayoral spokesperson Dena Iverson says that’s “hard to quantify,” given that the work was done in-house by OCTO’s security department. More info hopefully to come.