Attorney report: seizure of treasurer’s hard drive was “standard”

Hank Shell

Grand County’s attorney has maintained that the process through which the Grand County Information Systems Department took control of a hard drive from the county treasurer’s office was standard procedure for dealing with missing information within departments.

Alan Hassler submitted a report to the board of county commissioners detailing the Aug. 28 incident during which the county IT staff took possession of a hard drive from Treasurer Christina Whitmer’s office while she was absent.

Hassler wrote that County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran and County IT Director Martin Woros called a meeting with Hassler on Friday morning, Aug. 28, to discuss what Woros said were missing data files from the treasurer’s data system.

Specifically, “check and payment stub images from each April from 2009 to 2015” were missing, according to the report.

IT staff stated that the part of the system containing the missing information had recently been updated, according to the report.

The missing information “created enormous concerns” that precipitated the decision to obtain the treasurer’s office’s “legacy drive,” which contained the missing information, Hassler wrote.

IT staff obtained the legacy drive from the treasurer’s staff and remanded it to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, where it was held until IT staff could make a copy of the disk, Hassler wrote.

The disk was given to the sheriff’s office due to IT staff concerns about physically losing the disk, Hassler wrote.

Whitmer previously told the Sky-Hi News that the county attorney’s office seized the hard drive from IT staff.

The disk was copied and the data was not found on the disk, though IT staff eventually found the missing data within the system, Hassler’s report states.

The system was not indexing the information properly, Hassler wrote.

The disk was returned to the treasurer’s office.

In an email exchange between Hassler and Woros included with the report, Hassler wrote that the “whether, when and how of copying” was up to Woros.

“The author’s view of the matter, both then and now, is that the staff response was the correct response to a missing data situation in terms of both data and risk management,” Hassler wrote. “There was data that should have been locatable, but could not be located on a drive/system currently in use.”

Hassler informed Whitmer of the action via email on Aug. 28.

Attorney: commissioners not involved

In her reply, Whitmer questioned why the hard drive was taken while she was absent and alleged that the hard drive was taken at the request of county commissioners.

Whitmer added that the hard drive contained information that was “germane to the ongoing investigation of Commissioner (James) Newberry” and questioned his involvement.

In his report, Hassler refuted that claim, stating that “no commissioner was involved in the process.”

Newberry himself contested the allegation during an Oct. 6 budget hearing, saying Whitmer’s suggestion that he participated in the incident was “not true.”

“I think we all agree that communication could have been better, but as far as commissioners being involved in that, I think the report speaks for itself,” Newberry said.

In an email exchange between Whitmer and Hassler starting on Aug. 28, Whitmer said the action “carries with it the smell of a vendetta.”

After it was discovered in 2013 that more than $500,000 had gone missing from the Grand County Building Department, conflicting stories emerged from the manager’s office and treasurer’s office regarding the discovery of the missing money.

The conflict ended in a public dispute between Whitmer and commissioners Newberry and Merrit Linke.

In her response to Hassler, Whitmer wrote that the department was already aware of the indexing issue and was working to resolve the problem with Creditron.

An employee with the treasurer’s department said that Whitmer was in conference all week and wouldn’t be available for comment.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

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