Update: Westfield clerk-treasurer IT investigator found to be in City Hall after hours, unsupervised

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Westfield city attorneys have found that Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Gossard’s unnamed third-party IT investigator was in City Hall after work hours July 23 and into the early morning hours of July 24 unsupervised.

Manny Herceg, one of the city’s attorneys and an attorney with Taft, Stettinius and Hollister, said he is concerned about Gossard’s admission that she wasn’t aware of what data was downloaded from the hard drives acquired by her investigator.

Gossard

Gossard told the Westfield City Council at its July 26 meeting she would conduct a third-party investigation of the software called BeyondTrust that had been installed on her office computer, as well as five other computers in the clerk’s office. Gossard believed the city administration was using the software to manipulate data in her computer, but Director of Informatics Chris Larsen said the same software was installed on every city computer and was largely used for remote IT assistance when an employee was experiencing computer troubles.

However, Gossard’s attorney, Will Webster, issued a letter in May stating “BeyondTrust allows for very sophisticated and advanced remote access into a computer system. According to BeyondTrust’s website, (the technology) program far surpasses traditional remote access, in that it allows for remote access into a computer without that computer’s end user authorizing the remote access. It also has the ability to remote access into a computer when the computer is unattended, or even shut off…”

Webster’s letter included attached documents showing that the BeyondTrust software was installed on all of the clerk-treasurer’s office computers on Nov. 18, 2020.

Gossard and Webster continue to decline to name the company conducting the IT investigation. Council President Mike Johns also doesn’t know the name of the company investigating the hard drives or what data was accessible to that company on the hard drives, but he said the council was fully aware of the actions Gossard was taking to investigate the software.

However, council member Scott Willis said he wasn’t aware the investigation had already started, as he was alerted to the third-party investigation at the July 26 council meeting, but the investigator was in Gossard’s office several days prior to the meeting.

Willis said he wasn’t aware the investigator would be copying the hard drives.

Johns, whom Gossard endorsed in the November 2019 election, said he finds the BeyondTrust software on Gossard’s computer “extremely unusual and dubious.”

Larsen originally suggested several companies for Gossard to use for her investigation, but Gossard didn’t trust the options suggested by the city and instead selected a third-party option of her choosing.

“It’s not logical. Why would the city be involved at all?” Johns said. “Why were they in her systems to start with? I’m very concerned.”

Johns and Gossard said they believed the BeyondTrust software on the clerk-treasurer’s office computers was different than that on all city computers, although Larsen refuted that claim during the July 26 meeting.

Herceg issued a statement claiming Taft, Stettinius and Hollister is “taking all appropriate steps to maintain the integrity of the city’s data.”

This story will be updated.


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