Mayor: IT investigation found big problems
Published: Nov. 29, 2013
CITY EMPLOYEES received pay
raises without authorization, provided privileged information to
outsiders, kept encrypted files on their work computers,
downloaded and used software designed to elude computer
forensics and engaged in other questionable activities, Carmel
Mayor Jason Burnett and councilman Ken Talmage said this week.
The details emerged as a thorough investigation into the city’s
20-year-old computer systems and their use “is largely
complete,” Burnett said.
Their comments were the first real steps the city has taken to
explain the disciplinary measures taken in recent months against
numerous municipal employees that has caused a lot of
uncertainty and upset among the public.
But Burnett said the actions, and the secrecy surrounding them,
“Seeing the information that we’ve seen, if we were not taking
action, that would have been a real problem,” he said. Since
state law gives employees extensive privacy protection, and
because the investigations were ongoing, it wasn’t possible to
offer an explanation earlier, he added.
Neither Burnett nor Talmage would discuss any of the employees
who have been placed on paid administrative leave during the
past year: IT manager Steve McInchak, whose home was searched by
police under the eye of CPD Chief Mike Calhoun and
administrative services director Susan Paul in June; his
assistant, Rose Franzen; and administrative coordinators Margi
Perotti and Leslie Fenton, who worked in the planning and
building department until they were placed on leave at the end
“The overall finding was the city’s computer system was not
protected or secure,” Talmage said. “We’re not going to talk
In the wake of those suspensions, as well as the firings of
building official John Hanson and children’s library employee
Linda Macdonald, and the disappearance of former deputy city
clerk Molly Laughlin from city hall, city officials have been
tight-lipped for months.
Burnett said it was because they had to be, but with the
investigation coming to a close, more can be said about what was
“It’s the city council’s and my job to communicate with the
community, and I realize we need to do a better job doing that.
We have an ongoing investigation that’s now wrapping up, so
we’re able to say more today than we were a few days or a few
months ago,” he said. “We have intentionally held off until we
could be at a stage where we could have this conversation.”
Talmage provided some examples of the sorts of problems the
“There were encrypted files found on the city’s computer
system, anti-forensic software was found on the city’s system
that erases where you’ve been on the system, and there was
information turned over to non-city employees without
authorization,” he said.
Furthermore, “there is a specific process for all pay raises,
and there was a series of pay raises that did not follow that
process and were done without management or employees’
signatures, and with a rubber stamp.”
“Those are examples,” he said. “There are weak internal
Burnett said he could conceive of no reason for the encrypted
files, which were shielded at a level high enough to prompt the
city to ask the FBI for help uncovering them.
“I can’t understand why there would be a legitimate reason for
that,” he said.
Not only are the systems old, they don’t work with each other,
so the systems used in finance and accounting don’t communicate
with those used by the planning department, for instance. That
so many different systems are used by the city explains why the
investigation has taken so long and cost so much money, and
generated a lot of paperwork, according to Talmage. “For one
situation, we have a pile that’s 800 pages thick,” Burnett said.
Investigations cost plenty
Since he was hired by the city in February, forensic computer
investigator Mark Alcock has been working on the case against
McInchak — which has yet to be submitted to the Monterey
County District Attorney’s Office — and other incidents, as well
as IT services. He was paid $10,958 in May, $32,026 in June,
$21,780.54 in August and $60,346 in September, for a total of
Other investigators, including Richard Lee Investigations and
RSC Investigations & Consulting LLC, appear on the October
check register, for $3,121.88 and $4,777, respectively, though
it’s unknown whether they are investigating employees or other
targets. (Questions to that effect went unanswered Wednesday.)
“I made a commitment to communicate as much as possible about
what’s going on at city hall. There were more limitations on
what we could say a few months ago than there are now, and I
anticipate there will be more we can say in a month,” Burnett
He also said city administrator Jason Stilwell, who has been
overseeing the investigations and suspensions, “is doing the job
that we want him to be doing.”
“And I think we’re doing the job that the community wants us to
do, but if people disagree with that, hang that on me,” he said.
“If we saw what we’ve seen and we didn’t take action, that would
be a problem.”