Prenzler alleges data was destroyed by ex-chair’s office
Alleging erased electronic records, Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler recently asked Illinois State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons to investigate circumstances that he says comprise destruction of data from his office computers in Edwardsville.
The former Madison County treasurer claims that former County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, along with former County Administrator Joe Parente, “wiped or destroyed information on their hard drives prior to leaving the county offices,” stated Godfrey-based AdVantage News.
The missing information included government documents that are legally required to remain intact, according to the publication.
The discrepancy was discovered following a routine request filed by Prenzler in November 2016 in conformance to a document preservation notice under Illinois law. Notices of that sort apply to documents whether in government agencies or private companies and are designed precisely to protect information in the event of adverse circumstances — such as litigation or an investigation — or even just for a simple audit. They are used mainly in legal proceedings.
Prenzler's request clearly stated that computer and all related electronic information must be preserved for the then-recently elected chairman; the generic document included explicit instructions for preserving information.
Such notices typically state that the recipient must not alter or delete electronic documents and must maintain them in their present form.
County Administrator Doug Hulme told AdVantage News that the missing content was discovered in late December 2016 following an exchange with new treasurer Chris Slusser and information technology director Rob Dorman in which Slusser asked about removal of computers marked as evidence in an unrelated legal incident concerning former treasurer Fred Bathon, who was imprisoned on charges of tax rigging.
Hulme stated that although Dorman initially approved removing the equipment from the office, he responded by instructing Dorman to save the hard drives in case of any forthcoming Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, according to AdVantage.
“At that time I also wanted the same done on the computers used by Mr. Dunstan and Mr. Parente,” AdVantage quoted Hulme as stating.
According to the article, Dorman indicated that it was standard practice in the office to make a copy of a computer’s hard drive and store it on the county’s server. However, when personnel sought to begin the task, he said, IT staffers found almost nothing.
“Mr. Dunstan’s computer had little profile data and Mr. Parente’s hard drive was completely blank,” Dorman said, according to AdVantage.
Since the alleged breach was divulged, Hulme indeed received an FOIA request for material from Dunstan’s and Parente’s computers. In January, Hulme sent the problematic hard drives to Denver-based DataTech Labs Data Recovery for possible data restoration, AdVantage revealed.
On Saturday, Prenzler was physically attacked while attending a Madison church fundraiser surrounded by over 200 attendees, according to a statement by the county.
According to the Record, no arrests had been made in the incident as of yesterday, but the event, if deemed to qualify as a threat to a public official, may be categorized as a felony and could bring a possible jail sentence to the perpetrator of between two and five years, the Record stated.
It is unclear whether the incident was related to Prenzler’s data destruction allegations.
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