updated 9/13/2006 3:20:04 PM ET 2006-09-13T19:20:04

A state employee who was suspended from his job for making unfavorable comments online about a struggling community in rural Virginia has been awarded back pay.

Will Vehrs, a business services manager for the Virginia Department of Business Assistance, was suspended without pay for 10 days in May for "excessive casual use of the Internet."

While at work in April, he had contributed to an online contest in which bloggers write their own captions for photos. Under a shot of two musicians — one in a midriff-baring shirt — performing a prize-winning jingle about Martinsville and Henry County, Vehrs wrote: "Cindy's top was symbolic of the decline in Southside's fabric industry."

He also wrote, "Martinsville: Easy to Leave," a play on Richmond's slogan: "Richmond: Easy to Love."

Vehrs has apologized repeatedly for his comments.

State mediator David J. Latham reviewed Vehrs' suspension and determined that the agency had not shown that Vehrs' blogging affected either his or any other employee's work performance or that it violated any other policy, regulation or guideline.

State policy generally allows employees occasional personal use of the Internet, but individual agencies must establish their own guidelines. The Department of Business Assistance did not have such rules in April. It later banned blogging on agency time.

Vehrs said his salary is about $70,000 a year, and two weeks' pay would be about $2,700.

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