Westfield council orders IT to remove “spyware” from clerk-treasurer’s computers

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After nearly a year of litigation between Westfield Mayor Andy Cook and Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Gossard, the Westfield City Council asked the city’s Director of Informatics, Chris Larsen, to remove the BeyondTrust software from the clerk-treasurer’s office computers during a June 13 council meeting.

The meeting included public discussion between council members, Larsen and attorneys for Cook and Gossard.

Lawsuits were filed by Cook after he ordered an audit of the city’s accounts in August 2020, and Gossard failed to provide the correct information to the appointees conducting the investigation. Several months later, Gossard accused the city’s administration of installing “spyware” on all six computers in the clerk-treasurer’s office and accessing the data without her permission. The software, BeyondTrust, provides remote access for the city’s IT department to handle computer issues. Two lawsuits are ongoing — one is the city against Gossard and one is Gossard against Cook.

During the June 13 council meeting, city attorney Manny Herceg said he and Cook were still waiting on a response from Gossard’s attorney, Will Webster, regarding a settlement between Cook and Gossard to end the litigation. Not all settlement details were disclosed, but part of the settlement involved removing the BeyondTrust software from the clerk-treasurer’s computers.

Larsen and the city’s IT team have still been servicing Gossard’s computers but without using BeyondTrust software.

“So, (removing the software) can be done,” council member Scott Frei said. “At this point, it’s almost planting a flag in the ground and saying you’re not budging off this. Why can’t we remove it as a gesture of goodwill? I still can’t wrap my mind around why it has to be part of a settlement just to remove the software.”

Herceg said BeyondTrust software cannot be removed citywide. The council asked Larsen only to remove the software on computers in Gossard’s office. Larsen agreed to remove the software.

Cook addressed Gossard directly during the meeting.

“I think this has a lot to do with me and Miss Gossard in that, what are we trying to solve here with all of this? What has occurred that we are trying to solve?” Cook said. “What kind of damage have you suffered? What have I done to harm you?”

Gossard said it would take hours to answer Cook’s questions.

“It’s been since 2007, 2008,” Gossard said. “We can talk about it. I have some notes.”

Frei interrupted and said Cook and Gossard were playing a game.

“There is such a (divide) created between the administration and the clerk-treasurer’s office,” Frei said. “Why are we sitting here playing the games of, ‘What did I do, what is the problem?’ I’m not pointing a finger at (Cook). I’m not pointing a finger at (Gossard). But to say, ‘I don’t know what we’re trying to solve’ is silly.

“If it’s a tool you don’t need, why in the world wouldn’t you simply remove it?”

After Larsen agreed to remove the software, Gossard said by doing so, her office wouldn’t know who had accessed her computers without permission.

“By doing this, we know whatever the concerns were, if they remove it tomorrow, then starting Wednesday, those concerns are no longer taking place,” Frei said. “Whatever you need to prove in the past, that’s a whole different subject. We know starting Wednesday, they’re no longer taking place.”


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