INDIANTOWN — A laptop used by former Village Manager Howard Brown was wiped clean of files and data by information technology staff after he abruptly resigned in December, officials said Thursday.
Staff of Blue Stream Fiber, which provides the village with internet and IT services, was given Brown’s laptop when he left his position and was told to wipe it clean when repurposing it for the next user, said Philip Kantor, vice president and general counsel of the technology company.
The issue was discussed at the first Village Council meeting of the year at the request of Council Member Carmine Dipaolo. The discussion revealed the village’s unclear public records and IT protocols.
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Brown could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
After the laptop was wiped, it was brought back to Blue Stream Fiber to restore the deleted data, Kantor said. Kantor and village officials did not disclose specific dates when discussing the timeline of events.
“We’re not sure how much was there beforehand compared to how much we restored,” Kantor said. “It’s been done on several other occasions (for the village). We were given a mobile device, a laptop or a phone and said, ‘Hey, scrub this. We need it for someone new.’ That’s what we’ve done.”
Kantor also confirmed the village’s protocol does not include downloading and saving data from a device when it is repurposed for another user.
The laptop was given to Blue Stream Fiber by acting Village Manager Susan Owens, who said the incident happened as a result of a miscommunication over email. She spoke with Blue Stream Fiber staff about Windows operating systems and repurposing Brown’s laptop.
“When I responded, “Yes,” I was not responding to that portion of the email that said “Wipe the computer,” Owens said. “I was only responding to the portion of the email that required repurposing the laptop. I did misread that email.”
“I know how it looks, but I would never purposely scrub anything. And if I did, I sure as heck wouldn’t put it in a public record,” she added.
Before Owens made her comments, Dipaolo told her that he would fire Owens if he was able.
“I’ve lost all faith in you,” he said. “I’ve spoken to (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement), and I’ve spoken to the Sheriff’s Office.”
Brown’s laptop was to be given to Council Member Guyton Stone after Stone lost his laptop while traveling, officials said. Stone declined to answer when Dipaolo asked him when he lost his laptop and when he notified staff that he lost it.
“I’m not on trial here, I’m sorry,” Stone said.
The contentious discussion happened shortly after the council selected Taryn Kryzda as the village’s interim manager. Kryzda retired from her position as Martin County administrator in June after 11 years in the role and 35 years total as a county employee.
Kryzda was selected in a 3-2 vote out of a pool of 14 applicants. Council Members Janet Hernández and Stone dissented and both voiced a desire to do interviews in a public setting before making a decision.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love Taryn. But at the same time, why did we even bother putting out the application process for people to apply?” Stone said. “There is literally no interview. Not one person was asked a question publicly. That is not transparency.”
Kryzda starts the job immediately and will be given an equivalent to Brown’s salary: $12,500 a month. Other benefits are to be negotiated.
“I appreciate the opportunity,” Kryzda told the council. “I’ve rolled up my sleeves. I get my hands dirty. I’m not afraid to work.”
Moving forward, the council is to schedule a workshop to receive public input on the search for a permanent village manager.