Computer audit again delayed

By Jaime Rebhan | Sep 29, 2010

A report on the forensic audit of town computers, which has been in progress for nearly a year and a half, is once again delayed.

Town Administrator Mark Andrews and the Board of Selectmen had been told that special counsel, the Law Offices of Steven A. Torres, would be prepared to present the results of the audit on Sept. 28 or October 5. The October date was chosen, as Selectman Cara Winslow could not attend the Sept. 28 meeting.

But when Selectman Steve Holmes asked about the report at Tuesday's Selectmen's meeting, Andrews said that he had just been informed by Attorney Torres that the report would not be ready next week, due to an illness in his office.

Holmes was noticeably annoyed by the additional delay. "He's had plenty of time to do the report," he said.

The controversial audit of town employees' office computers began in May 2009, when the Board of Selectmen hired a private computer consulting firm, Global Digital Forensics, to copy town employees' hard drives during a mandatory furlough day.

The audit was first held up when the Plymouth County District Attorney's office seized the computer disks from Global Digital Forensics in the wake of outrage expressed by some town employees and citizens regarding the computer audit process.

Employees had no advance notice of the audit, nor were they or the public given a reason for the audit at the time, beyond the desire of the Selectmen to determine if employees were improperly using town computers.

After the Selectmen were found to have violated open meeting laws while discussing the computer audit during two executive sessions, the minutes of the meetings were made public. The minutes revealed that the Selectmen aimed to determine who was blogging on town computers to resident William Whitehouse's generally anti-Selectmen website, www.warehamobserver.com; whether there were outside businesses being run on town computers; and other information about improper use of town computers.

The DA's office never disclosed its reason for seizing the disks, other than its broad intent to investigate possible criminal wrong-doing. It closed its investigation in January with no finding, and the disks were returned to the town in March.

The Selectmen voted June 15 to pay an additional $7,500 to complete the audit, on top of approximately $46,000 that had already been expended. At that time, Andrews said he expected the audit to be completed in the following few weeks.

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