Computer audit to be completed in coming weeks

By Jaime Rebhan | Jun 15, 2010

The Board of Selectmen voted Tuesday to complete the forensic audit of town employees' computers at an additional cost of no more than $7,500.

The funds, on top of approximately $46,000 already expended, are "to finish what was started," said Selectmen Chair Jane Donahue.

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

Employees, including many department heads, 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 Board was 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,, who is spending business time on the internet, and if there are outside businesses being run on town computers, among other reasons.

The audit was put on hold when the 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.

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 in regards to the Board of Selectmen, and the disks were returned to the town in March.

Tuesday's vote came after new Selectmen Cara Winslow and Steve Holmes expressed confusion about whether the cost to complete the audit had been approved by Selectmen. Town Administrator Mark Andrews alerted members of the Board of the cost in recent weeks, Donahue said, and has the authority to move forward.

A vote was ultimately taken, with the Board voting unanimously in favor of spending the money to complete the audit.

Holmes suggested that the results of the audit be presented to the Board in public session, to keep citizens informed. Because the audit might reveal personnel issues, Andrews said he will seek the advice of counsel to determine what information can be made public when the time comes.

Andrews said the audit would likely be completed within the next several weeks.

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