Unau­tho­rized com­puter ac­cess al­le­ga­tions probe

In­ves­ti­ga­tion to cen­ter on ac­cu­sa­tions made by Ex­ec­u­tive Hein, Comp­trol­ler Auer­bach against each other

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­tri­cia R. Doxsey pdoxsey@free­manon­line.com @pat­ti­at­free­man on Twit­ter

Of­fi­cials could know soon whether the county’s two top elected of­fi­cials gained ac­cess to each other’s com­puter files.

KINGSTON, N.Y. » Ul­ster County leg­is­la­tors could know within the next month whether the county’s two top elected of­fi­cials gained ac­cess to each other’s com­puter files.

Mem­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture’s Ways and Means Com­mit­tee voted unan­i­mously Thurs­day to hire Eis­ner-Am­per LLP, of New York City, to in­ves­ti­gate and also re­view county pol­icy and pro­ce­dure re­view.

The com­pany will be paid $38,900 to get to the bot­tom of the al­le­ga­tions, which have been lobbed be­tween Ul­ster County Ex­ec­u­tive Michael Hein and county Comp­trol­ler El­liott Auer­bach, both elected Democrats.

The firm is ex­pected soon to be­gin its work and to de­liver its find­ings to the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee within three weeks if Auer­bach and Hein co­op­er­ate with the probe.

“It’s ... sad that it’s come down to this, that we had to step in here and as­cer­tain what’s go­ing on here,” said Mi­nor­ity Leader Hec­tor Ro­driguez, D-New Paltz. “It’s un­for­tu­nate, but we’re try­ing to make the best of what is a very sad sit­u­a­tion.”

In Au­gust, Hein and Auer­bach, each claimed the other had gained unau­tho­rized and po­ten­tially il­le­gal ac­cess to com­puter files of the other.

Hein said Auer­bach rou­tinely gained unau­tho­rized and po­ten­tially il­le­gal ac­cess to dozens of files hun­dreds of times be­tween March and May. The al­leged in­cur­sions in­cluded ac­cess to memos to the Fi­nance Depart­ment from the county at­tor­ney, files con­tain­ing Fi­nance Depart­ment notes be­ing com­piled in re­sponse to a comp­trol­ler’s au­dit and a file en­ti­tled “crit­i­cal ex­am­ples of Comp­trol­ler El­liott Auer­bach.”

Auer­bach ac­cused the Hein ad­min­is­tra­tion of go­ing into the hard drive of the comp­trol­ler’s com­puter ser­vice to ex­tract record-

ings of tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions that Auer­bach sur­rep­ti­tiously made of his con­ver­sa­tions with a county leg­is­la­tor, the clerk of the Leg­is­la­ture and a mem­ber of the pub­lic.

Deputy County Ex­ec­u­tive Ken Cran­nell said the Hein ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­ported its sus­pi­cions to the county’s com­pli­ance of­fi­cer and is work­ing to de­ter­mine ex­actly what in­for­ma­tion was ac­cessed.

Ul­ster County District

At­tor­ney Hol­ley Carn­right has sent com­plaints he re­ceived from Auer­bach and Hein to the state at­tor­ney gen­eral.

The state At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice has not re­sponded to Free­man queries about the re­quest.

Ac­cord­ing to the proposal, Eis­ner-Am­per will con­duct a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion to de­ter­mine if the staff of the Comp­trol­ler’s Of­fice gained unau­tho­rized ac­cess to Fi­nance Depart­ment files and, if they did, what files were ac­cessed, how the comp­trol­ler gained ac­cess and who granted the ac­cess.

The com­pany will also in­ves­ti­gate whether the county’s In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Depart­ment — which is part of the Hein ad­min­is­tra­tion — ac­cessed comp­trol­ler files, and, if it did, what files were ac­cessed and by who they were ac­cessed.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the com­pany will look to see if any ac­cess oc­curred that might war­rant fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion or dis­ci­plinary ac­tion.

Since the al­leged data breach oc­curred, an In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices em­ployee who was asked how the Comp­trol­ler’s Of­fice gained un­re­stricted

ac­cess to the Fi­nance Depart­ment’s files, abruptly re­tired and Ali­cia DeMarco, the comp­trol­ler’s di­rec­tor of au­dit and in­ter­nal con­trol, and one of three em­ploy­ees ac­cess­ing those files, re­signed from her po­si­tion.

Auer­bach has said his of­fice did noth­ing wrong in ac­cess­ing those files, be­cause, he said, the county char­ter gives his of­fice the

right to “ac­cess any and all county records.” Rather, he said, the is­sue is be­ing raised as a “red her­ring” to de­flect from the fact that the ad­min­is­tra­tion took recorded con­ver­sa­tions off the comp­trol­ler’s com­puter and shared them with leg­isla­tive lead­er­ship.

Hein ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials and Leg­is­la­ture Chair­man Ken Ronk, RWal­lkill, have called Auer­bach’s

claims ridicu­lous and said that, while the char­ter gives the Comp­trol­ler’s Of­fice the abil­ity to “ex­am­ine, au­dit and ver­ify all books, records and ac­counts kept by the ad­min­is­tra­tive units,” that right doesn’t ex­tend to con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing busi­ness and per­sonal records, le­gal cor­re­spon­dence or un­fin­ished work prod­uct.

Hein

Auer­bach

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