Source: Sherman Publications

Village computer hard drive investigation move forward

by David Fleet

November 16, 2011

Goodrich- In an attempt to resolve an unpaid bill of about $6,000 as well as questions regarding whether roughly 20 individuals’ private information was compromised by the removal of computer files, the council approved a $9,300 contract with CPA Karl Haiser to investigate the matters further.

By a vote of 4-0 Monday night the village council voted to hire Haiser to investigate the village computer removal of files and the unpaid service bill.

“We want closure on this issue,” said Rick Horton, village council president. “We don’t want this to come up at every meeting. Mr. Haiser will interview employees, he has the education, training and prior experience.”

The concerns stem from a Feb. 9 row when the village council voted to request the resignation of Village Administrator Jakki Sidge. She was also requested to make her computer available to copy the hard drive and ordered to not delete any e-mails. She officially stepped down on Feb. 11. Following her resignation, the hard drive was removed from her computer upstairs in the village offices. Village Councilman Rick Horton took the hard drive home for the weekend and turned it over at the Feb. 14 village meeting to Dave McDonald, a retired Genesee County Sheriff’s Deputy and village employee. McDonald then handed the hard drive over to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, who then turned it over to a professional who made a copy.

The hard drive was delivered to ACA, 3487 Richfield Road, where the Genesee County Sheriff Department takes computer equipment for forensic work. ACA had the hard drive and requested the computer tower, which was still at the village office. ACA said it (the hard drive) had been wiped clean. They were not trained to go any further with the investigation.

After that, then-Village Council President Patricia Wartella and Councilman Doug McAbee authorized the computer to be sent to Lansing-based Dalman Investigations.

The decison to contract with Dalman was made without a village council vote.

Larry Dalman, company owner, is a retired Michigan State Police detective with 28 years of experience in law enforcement. A forensic computer technician who has investigated more than 100 computer-related crimes for more than 35 different law enforcement agencies, reported several red flags following his investigation.

However, since then no report has been released to the council by Dalman regarding the hard drive. Furthermore, a balance of about $6,000 owed to Dalman still exists.

“I’m independent of anyone involved,” said Haiser, a Grand Blanc CPA, who also works with the FBI as a fraud examiner and has worked for several municipalities in the state. “I’d like to employ my training, to bring closure if there was copying of the hard drive. This is not a legal process, but I will testify to my findings. Everything I’ve heard and read are allegations to this point—everyone is innocent until proven guilty.”

The hard drive allegedly contains the Social Security numbers of numerous past and present village employees, elections workers, and councilmembers.

“There are 18 citizens who want something done,” said Councilman Richard Saroli. “They feel their Social Security numbers may be at risk.”

Doug McAbee said the prosecutor and state police would serve the purpose of investigating the matters better than Haiser and without the cost.

“If you (Haiser) do this (investigation) there will still be rumors and allegations and the village will still pay you $10,000,” McAbee said. “We could write the conclusion now.”

The Citizen Stsff Writer Susan Bromley contributed to this report.