PRC lawyers dispute that, saying Bonal Jr. accused co-workers of inappropriate Web activities without verifying reports generated by a new system plagued with bugs, and that he refused to follow orders from his superiors, which justified his termination for insubordination and misconduct.
After several years of legal wrangling over Bonal Jr.'s 2011 lawsuit claiming the PRC violated the state's Whistleblower Protection Act, the opposing sides gave opening statements Tuesday before jurors in District Judge
Bonal Jr., the son of former
The PRC employees allegedly visited www.megaporn.com and websites for the
Zamora said it was Bonal Jr's. responsibility to safeguard the commission's computer systems from malware, "Trojan horse" viruses and other online dangers that could compromise the security of a massive amount of data on PRC servers, including
This is why, Zamora said, Bonal Jr. had reported the activity and why, when he was asked by his superiors to allow unlimited Internet access for certain PRC employees and elected officials, he refused.
Some higher-ups thanked Bonal Jr. for his diligence, Zamora said, and one of the accused employees received counseling from the agency's human resources division about the alleged improper use of company computers.
But behind the scenes, Zamora said, a more sinister reaction to Bonal Jr.'s findings was taking shape.
The findings -- which the PRC admits Bonal Jr. was able to satisfactorily explain later -- were used as the basis for issuing a "notice of contemplated action," alerting Bonal Jr. that he might be fired and placing him on paid leave.
Immediately after Bonal Jr. was placed on leave, Zamora said, he was asked by management to provide passwords for PRC systems that only he knew. Zamora said Bonal Jr., in a state of shock over being placed on leave, tried to remember the passwords off the top of his head. They didn't work, either because he accidentally gave the wrong words or because someone wrote them down wrong.
The PRC used that misinformation as one example of misconduct by Bonal Jr. to justify his termination, said
Young told a different version of the story Tuesday, suggesting the improper Internet activity Bonal Jr. reported may never have happened at all.
Young said the problems came to light soon after the PRC had implemented a new Internet filter called "Websense," which initially was so sensitive that it blocked even benign websites such as www.nmcourts.com and the website for the city of EspaÑola.
Employees and elected officials became so frustrated with being blocked from websites they routinely used for work, Young said, that Bonal Jr.'s bosses asked him to reprogram the system to allow unlimited access to certain employees. His refusal, Young said, was an act of insubordination.
Furthermore, Young said, Bonal Jr. provided colleagues with only one password, forcing the PRC to hire an expert to break into the system.
In the course of hacking into the system, Young said, the expert -- a former professor of Bonal Jr.'s -- learned that he had created "an unauthorized back-door" portal to PRC systems that could be accessed by simply clicking a link on Bonal Jr.'s laptop. Young said Bonal Jr. should have known this was "a no-no."
That same expert, Young said, advised the PRC that the unprotected access should be reported to the state police and said Bonal Jr. should have known better than to report suspected improper Internet use based only on the reports generated from a new system.
In some instances, Young said, software can generate reports on potential threats that "pop up" on otherwise innocuous Web pages or in advertisements, even if the employee never visited the page or did so inadvertently.
Young said Bonal Jr. never picked up the phone to ask employees about the suspicious Internet activity before reporting it to management, as any other "reasonably prudent" IT director would have done.
As to Bonal Jr.'s "distress" related to his loss of employment at the PRC, Young asked jurors to keep in mind that Bonal Jr. was out of work for only one day before accepting a comparable job for comparable pay and benefits as the IT director at the state
Furthermore, Young said, Bonal Jr.'s reporting of the Internet activities of other PRC employees couldn't be considered whistle-blowing because he was "trained, hired and paid" to track employee Internet activity.
"These things he's calling 'whistle-blower acts' were his core job duties," Young said.
Contact information for Montoya and Aragon was unavailable Tuesday. Neither man returned phone messages left seeking comment on these events when Bonal Jr. first filed his complaint in 2011.
The trial is expected to last through Friday.
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