In a nutshell: The computer audit

By Jaime Rebhan | Nov 01, 2010

The results of the controversial town computer audit were presented to the Board of Selectmen last week. Here's a summary of the information in an easy-to-read format.

Why did the town decide to conduct the audit?

According to the minutes of executive sessions held in May, 2009, the audit was prompted by the then Board of Selectmen's desire to learn who was spending work time on the Internet, accessing non-work sites. The Selectmen were most concerned about employees blogging on Wareham resident William Whitehouse's generally anti-Selectmen website, warehamobserver.com; who was spending business time on the Internet; “who is investigating” the Selectmen; if there were outside businesses being run on town computers; information about the “double log versus the private log at the police station;” and who was performing criminal records and other searches for information about Selectmen and George Coleman of the Onset Crime Watch.

How much did the audit cost the Town of Wareham?

Not all of the costs have been reported. The best estimate is that at least $58,000 has been spent thus far, most of it for the manpower involved in copying the disks, some for legal expenses, and some for analysis.

Were all computer users in the town included in the audit?

No. A total of 84 computers were audited: 17 from the Police Department, and 67 from Town Hall departments (multiple locations). Selectmen Chair Jane Donahue, who was on the Board of Selectmen at the time the audit was initiated, said the Board was told there were 31 police disks copied. Only the 17 were audited, and it is not clear what happened to the remaining disks, she said.

How much computer information was audited?

According to the audit report submitted by Steven Torres, the Special Counsel engaged by the town to report on the audit of the 67 computers, and Keith Clark, of Networks at Home, who was engaged to review the Police Department disks, the audit covered computers in use from roughly 2003 to 2009.

The audit of Town Hall department computers looked at Internet use history, and examined the computers to find pictures, videos, and text files that might be illegal, indecent, or inappropriate. The Police audit only looked at Internet search history data.

What did the audit uncover?

Neither the town computer audit, nor the Police Department audit, uncovered anything clearly illegal. The audit of Town Hall department computers uncovered about four-dozen inappropriate or indecent images on some computers. (it was not revealed whether the downloading of these images was evenly dispersed over the entire 6 years covered by the audit, whether is was concentrated in a particular period, or whether the majority of the images were associated with one or two individuals.)

Since the Police audit did not look for these images, none were found. The Police audit uncovered 79 searches using the word "sex," more than 250 searches using the word "game," greater than 210 searches using the word "observer," and 200 searches for "Warehamobserver.com."

Did they find out who was blogging to WarehamObserver.com?

The reports indicated that town employees accessed that website, but auditors could not determine whether they actually blogged. That would require additional work and expense.

Did they find out who was "investigating" the Selectmen?

No. Because the cost of copying the disks was high, the auditors were not hired to determine who was investigating the Selectmen.

Did they find evidence of anyone running a private business on town computers?

The auditors did not investigate whether anyone was running a private business on town computers.

What did they find out about the "double log versus the private log" at the police station?

The auditor of the Police computer disks was only hired to look for instances of porn, online shopping, gambling, and visits to warehamobserver.com. The auditor did not investigate the "double log versus the private log."

What did they find out about improper criminal records searches?

They did not find anything regarding improper criminal records searches because this was beyond the scope of the audit of the Police Department disks.

Did they uncover evidence of online shopping?

Special Counsel Steven Torres' report indicates that employees had visited sites such as shopping.com, bloomingdales.com, and victoriassecret.com.

Did the town have a computer use policy in place that told town and Police employees that they could not use the Internet for personal use and what the penalties would be for such use?

Special Counsel Steven Torres cited paragraphs of town's policy in his report, and indicated that town employees who visited sites that were not directly related to their work - even if visited during meal breaks - violated the policy.

Is it clear that town employees who were assigned to the computers at the time of the audit are responsible for the inappropriate files and/or Internet searches?

Special Counsel Steven Torres stated in his October 27 report to the Board of Selectmen that the town can cross-reference a file or an Internet search to an individual log-in I.D. It is unclear whether computer log-on I.D.'s are only used by a single individual or whether they are shared by several users.

Will any further examination of the data occur?

Town Administrator Mark Andrews told the Board of Selectmen that he and Acting Police Chief Richard Stanley are reviewing the audit data and results and will report their findings to the Board.

What will happen to town employees who accessed the Internet inappropriately during work hours?

Town Administrator Mark Andrews indicated that he will determine whether to take any disciplinary action after completing reviews of the data and speaking with Special Counsel about next steps.

Could the town have prevented the viewing and downloading of inappropriate information?

Yes, if it had implemented software to block sites known to have inappropriate material. The auditors indicated that the town could better use its existing software and/or purchase additional software to help keep employees in compliance with Internet usage policies.

Are current and former town officials satisfied with the results?

“I feel the results of the audit justified the audit,” said Selectmen Chair Jane Donahue. “There were more reasons to do it then not to do it.” Donahue added that she hoped there would be process and policy improvement as a result of the findings.

“My response is that forming an opinion on the results of the audit is premature at this time because we don't have the complete results yet,” former-Selectman Bruce Sauvageau said in an e-mail, indicating that further reviews of the Police data by Acting Chief Richard Stanley could reveal more significant issues. Sauvageau was the chair of the Board that initiated the audit. “The preliminary results do prove out at least two things; the majority of Wareham employees are good hard working and ethical producers and some are not, and there was in fact a pattern of very disturbing employee behavior in some instances.”

“I'm glad it's over,” said Selectman Cara Winslow, who was not on the Board at the time the audit began. “I think that Mr. Torres said it best himself when he said that, for the most part, people are abiding by the rules.”

“I'm satisfied that we closed the process down, that we have the records that we requested, so now it's a part of systematically going through those records,” said Town Administrator Mark Andrews.

Comments (1)
Posted by: gatemenfan | Nov 04, 2010 10:36

Thanks to Jamie and Wareham Week for the clear, concise, and fact-based summary of the audit situation.  This was very helpful.  Can we add questions to the list, though?  Was anything found during the audit to support accusations of millions of dollars of fraud at the library?



If you wish to comment, please login.