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Vote to Oust City Manager Fails

The Commission agrees unanimously to have a cyber security firm contact the FBI and state law enforcement over possible tampering of city e-mails.

A vote to fire Manager Robert Bartolotta failed at a special city commission Friday, while Deputy City Manager Marion Brown told Patch he's thinking about quitting amid the revelation of an investigation into exempt and overwritten computer files at City Hall. 

The motion to terminate Bartolotta, made by City Commissioner Shannon Snyder, failed 2-3, with Commissioner Paul Caragiulo also voting in favor.

Mayor Suzanne Atwell, Vice Mayor Terry Turner and Commissioner Willie Charles Shaw voted against the measure.

"I don't have any confidence in city administration," Snyder said.

The move came after a presentation and lengthy discussion about a forensic investigation by cyber security analyst firm into access of e-mails and files containing personal information exempt from public record laws, health information and missing and overwritten e-mail files. 

The Information Technology Department was

Commissioners also unanimously voted in favor of having Sylint contact the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement about launching a potential criminal investigation and turning over findings and possible evidence to authorities. 

When asked by Patch if Bartolotta would still want to work for the city after the commission attempted to fire him, Bartolotta said, "I think that would be the commission’s decision — not mine."

Here's what Sylint Group President John Jorgensen said his firm discovered and have challenges completing in his presentation to the commission:

• About 11,000 e-mails were deleted on the city manager's computer. Those were compared to deleted files and orphan files, which is a trace of a deleted file. 

• Out of those, about 100 e-mails could not be reconciled by comparing other users inboxes, forwarded e-mails, hard drives.

"Either (the archive journal) has not captured all the email or that somebody has a way to delete the email would have access (to) e-mails through the back end," Jorgensen said.

• The Exchange e-mail system is supposed to retain all e-mails regardless of exempt status, and not all e-mails were kept whether due to a technical glitch or nefarious activity. The journal, a back-up system, was discovered to have been turned off. Sunshine Law can hold people accountable for negligence for this happening, Jorgensen said.

• Of those 100 e-mails, some are believed to have exempt information. Some exempt e-mails found through unauthorized access had information important to the federal Office of Housing and Urban Development investigation into the city staff misusing grant funds.

• A contract Information Technology Department employee might have placed a code that blocks a .pst format file on Brown's laptop, which prevents certain e-mails from being stored on the computer and server. A .pst file contains  some information about e-mails, like subject, date, sender, receiver and sometimes body, and in order for that file to be created, a search has to be done on the Archive Manager or Archive Manager II systems.

• All but two e-mails are reconciled off of Brown's computer, but more e-mails are missing because of a missing hard drive. 

• The Information Technology Department was unable to track that hard drive  previously used on Brown's laptop. Officials believe it's being used in the planning department. This hard drive may have been part of the HUD investigation.

• Brown had downloaded e-mails and files with sensitive information but is unclear if he accessed those files.

"Nothing has been deleted as Mr. Jorgensen had indicated," Brown said.

• The contract employee submitted an invoice for work on the same day the .pst file was written. That invoice was not itemized.

• Index system failure and corruption prevented certain data from being captured.

• Potential that person went on Sequel back-end and placed corrupted file to prevent e-mails from being stored.

• There were unauthorized searches for information by an Information Technology employee that were not pertinent to a public records request, and searches for e-mails of commissioners and other city staff members including City Auditor and Clerk Pamela Nadalini.

 • Another .pst file was created and lived on a portable thumb drive, which Bartolotta says he has on his desk. Sylint is unsure what are on those files and would request access from that thumb drive.

"The thumb drive is on my desk and would have (been) given it to you if you would have asked," Bartolotta said.

Bartolotta maintains that it's normal practice for e-mails to be deleted, as the sender of the e-mail is responsible for maintaining the record. Recipients can delete, he said.

Additionally, Bartolotta said he had raised concerns to the former and current auditor and clerk about the noncompliance with federal privacy laws.

"The concern is with the immediate release of information," he said, explaining some e-mails with sensitive or health information covered under privacy laws are leaked to the public access system where the public and media can view them.

Also, staff received training about what to mark as exempt as some private e-mails should not have been marked exempt, he said.

Bartolotta and Brown were unhappy Sylint did not interview them, but Jorgensen said they were only contracted to get technical information that Bartolotta and Brown wouldn't have knowledge of, and fact-finding interviews would interfere with a potential investigation by law enforcement.

After the meeting, Brown said he takes responsibility for having those files and not properly making notification that a potential breach has been made.

"It's my responsibility and my fault if anyone had download and accessed the files," he said. 

Even if Brown did not access the files, he would be liable for failure to disclose, City Attorney Robert Fournier said.

"I have nothing to hide," Brown said during the meeting.

When asked if he would still work for the city, he said. "It's something I would have to think about."

Sylint said additional investigations need to be done to see if there were systemic failures or intentional blocking or removing of information, as well as needing access to a missing hard drive.

Nadalini also will come back to the commission with a cost and recommendation for Sylint to complete additional work related to the audit.

Keep with Patch for this developing story. This article has been updated.

Proofisinthepudding January 07, 2012 at 09:57 PM
I am confused as to this article from the beginning. Does Brown have a responsibiltiy? Does he know what that is? Did he fail his responsibility? If the commissioners cannot decide if he did or did not do his job, why is he not on a unpaid leave? Commissioners are elected to do their job, looks as though they do not know what that is either...... Typical politics!!!!
Charles Schelle January 08, 2012 at 03:09 AM
We will present what's going on at city hall this week to go over these issues in a different format because there is a lot going on and it can get confusing because of the amount of allegations piled and who's responsible. Yes, Sylint says Brown has a responsibility because he had e-mails he wasn't suppose to have and even if he didn't read them, just knowing he had them is enough to be responsible. Folks are wondering like you why Brown or anyone involved aren't on leave. I have to check the charter to see who runs the day-to-day operations of city hall if the managers are on leave. It might be the auditor and clerk, or someone appointed in the interim, but I'll have to go through and see what's up.
Proofisinthepudding January 08, 2012 at 09:48 AM
Great, then I have another question. You said you have to check the charter and see who runs the day to day operation's. Should that have been taken in consideration prior to the vote to fire the guy? It does not sound like the commission had all their ducks in a row. Like I said before, he should have been put on unpaid leave while investigation is going on. Did anyone think about his home computer? Security access ID's, Login's?
alweer onzin January 09, 2012 at 04:18 PM
a little bit off topic but.. a good way to prevent employees to delete files permanently is to install file recovery software. This will save you a lot of money (because forensic experts are expensive). We like to use: http://www.auslogics.com/en/software/file-recovery/ This software also contains a file shredder to 'permanently delete files' but even these files can be recovered. For this you will need the forensic experts though. We are now testing software that monitors, on network level, who is deleting what files. And we can even monitor who is coping what files to external media (like an usb stick). I think, we working with this kind of important files, every organisation should be aware of these tools (and use them!)
Proofisinthepudding January 17, 2012 at 09:32 PM
After thinking about this again. First, the commission votes to fire the guy. Why? Why did they jump the gun? Did he offend one or some of them? They had him guilty before all the facts were out. This is like firing every police officer when a shooting occurs and then rehire them when it was just cause.. The last article update I read was that if they fired him he would still get 3 months pay. And that we did not want to live under a cloud so the commission would allow insurance and $10,000 in legal fees. OK, so the commission decided he is guilty. Sort of! Lets pay him off if he leaves quietly is what this sounds like. Isn't this a repeat of the last commission that left with benefits and something like $300,000? You only hear about this in politics. If this was a private citizen they would have put him in jail. What a job to have. I want to work for the county, you can't lose.......... The cloud is already on the commissioners as it looks like they don't have a clue as to what is going on with contract's. I'll put money on it that their contracts are large and secure.

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