Monday, November 12, 2012

Hark - Is That the Buzz of Cicadas or a Shredder? Did the DuPage Forest Preserve Shred a Truckload of Records During the Criminal Investigation?


Within two months of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County presenting its findings of an "internal investigation" of its Information Technology (IT) Department to the DuPage County State's Attorney's office leading to 317 felony indictments so far, the District sought permission from the State to dispose of 815 cubic feet of records -- the size of 10 ft. by 10 ft. by 8 ft. room jammed to the ceiling.

The "internal investigation" began July 27, 2011 and concluded on Dec. 22, 2011. On Jan. 12, 2012, the District requested approval to dispose of records listed as recent as 2010, including the time period under scrutiny starting in 2005. The nature of the records sought for destruction dated 2005 through 2010 embodied administrative files, date/plan books, appointment books, attendance reports, time accounting and receipts.

Former District Executive Director Brett Manning, who was out on leave during most of the "internal investigation", signed off the request; the Local Records Commission of the Illinois State Archives office certified the request on Mar. 12th.  (To enlarge, click on image)

It is unknown if these records had actually been mulched, as there has been no public discussion by the District's Board of Commissioners. No recent direct payment to a document destruction vendor could be found on the District's "Transparency Portal", nor an injunction by the State's Attorney's office ordering the District to maintain all records throughout the investigation and all proceedings which could follow.

While the District routinely requested to dispose of records, a procedure mandated by the Illinois Local Records Act, local citizen watchdogs are alarmed that the request was made during a criminal investigation when standard practice is to freeze all record destruction -- paper and electronic -- regardless of what the records may contain. A single piece of paper has the power to change everything, they assert.

Watchdogs are also concerned that data and email back-up files stored on the disaster recovery equipment located off-site at Alamach Technology, Inc., a former IT vendor for the District under investigation, may have been altered or swept

According to an invoice dated Jan. 18, 2011, Alamach charged the District for "email archive and migration set-up" for 350 users from Nov. 2008 onward. An employee (or was it a subcontractor?) of politically-and-family-connected JRM Consulting, Inc. picked up the data and equipment from Alamach on Nov. 9, 2011 -- 12 days before the District presented their findings to the State's Attorney's office.

Click HERE for a timeline of events discussed in this article.

CountyLeaks was first to report that a grand jury handed down a total of 317 felony indictments to three men on Oct. 31st related to allegations of a fraud scheme of stealing more than $100,000 from the District over a six-year period.

The District's former director of its IT department, Mark McDonald, and the department manager, David Tepper, were each charged with 140 felony counts, while a third man, Arif Mahmood, who worked for Alamach, was charged with 37 counts.

DuPage County State's Attorney's Office Assists Forest Preserve District to Halt Freedom of Information Act Requests 

While the Forest Preserve District was disinterested in protecting all public records from destruction during the the criminal investigation, it was interested in securing some records.

On Jan. 9th, prior to the District's request for permission to destroy public records, a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request was made to the District for Alamach contracts and payment records. The District denied the request eight days later. A request for review of this denial was made to the Public Access Counselor of the Illinois Attorney General's office.

The State determined on May 4th that the Alamach contracts and payment records were not exempt from disclosure -- a decision which didn't set well with both the District and the law enforcers. A power struggle ensued.

Within days of the determination, Forest Preserve Policewoman Kathy Murphy-Nowak, daughter of Commissioner Marsha Murphy of Addison, came onto the property of the citizen who had made the FOIA request. Altogether, Forest Preserve police came onto the citizen's private property three times over the next week without legitimate cause or a courtesy knock on the door; Murphy-Nowak "visited" twice. DuPage United, a non-partisan advocacy group with 50,000 members, invited this citizen as a guest speaker to share her experience with a packed assembly in Glen Ellyn on Nov. 4th.

And while the State's Attorney's office did not seek a standard injunction that all records be preserved at the District throughout the investigation and proceedings, it did seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) that the Forest Preserve District not release the Alamach information to the public. On June 14th, the County's top law enforcer had officially entered the boxing ring with the Illinois Attorney General.

The TRO was quietly lifted on Oct. 1st -- the same date and time McDonald, Tepper and Mahmood appeared in court. The hearings took place simultaneously in four separate court rooms. The Alamach records were finally released on Oct. 12th -- nine months after the initial FOIA request.

Yet, this wasn't the end of the TRO's regarding Forest Preserve FOIA's. On Aug. 23rd, a FOIA request to the District was made by another citizen for a copies of recent subpoenas, which was denied seven days later. A request for review was filed on Sept. 10th to the Public Access Counselor of the Illinois Attorney General; the State sent a "further inquiry letter" to the Forest Preserve the following week. On Oct. 19th, the District's attorney responded to the Attorney General's office with a copy of the protective order prohibiting the release of copies of subpoenas by the grand jury.

CountyLeaks Asks:

Would readers please join CountyLeaks for a primal scream?  One, two, three...ARGH!!!

Were the records requested for disposal last January actually destroyed? If yes, how? Were they used to ignite controlled prairie burns? Added to a landfill?

Why doesn't the Board of Commissioners discuss upcoming mass records disposals in Board meetings?

Is it strange that the DuPage State's Attorney is fighting the FOIA battles of the Forest Preserve? Is this yet another conflict of interest?

Why didn't the DuPage State's Attorney's office bother to have all records at the Forest Preserve protected the instant the findings of the "internal investigation" were presented to them on Nov. 21, 2011?

Is it a violation of a citizen's constitutional rights for Forest Preserve Policewoman Kathy Murphy-Nowak, daughter of Commissioner Marsha Murphy, to check out the private property of a citizen involved with a FOIA dispute? Who gave this "police intimidation assignment" to Murphy-Nowak?

What did the Forest Preserve officials do with all the data and email backup files stored on the disaster recovery equipment located off-site at Alamach? And what information might have been included within that data?

Is it possible that McDonald and Tepper had to be pushed out of the way to achieve another goal, ie: to protect their own?

Are McDonald, Tepper and Mahmood the real story here?  Or is there something else? Something much bigger perhaps?  Is this why the FBI has been sniffing around?

Did any DuPage Forest Preserve officials attend the Enron School of Management?

Are there more indictments coming or are 317 nutty enough?

Why did the Forest Preserve hire Troy Clampit, owner of Genesis One Designs, which has printed campaign materials and worked on political websites of President Pierotti and Commissioners Formento, Painter, Murphy and the DuPage County Republican Central Committee? Why was Clampit hired to work in the Agency's IT department shortly before the so-called internal investigation by the politically-and-family-connected JRM? Is it like everything else CountyLeaks reports -- pure happenstance?

Troy Clampit has performed nearly $105,000 of political work for DuPage Republicans since he began working for the Forest Preserve in the spring of 2011. Is all this work done after hours and weekends? Just how does that work? Does he call political clients during the day on his cell phone? Of the thousands of IT experts who could have been hired for this position, why Clampit? Did Clampit know Jerry Marquardt prior to their work at the Forest Preserve, after all, they both did IT work for the DuPage County Republican Central Committee?

Would Dewey had entitled this article, "Hark -- Is That the Buzz of Locusts or a Shredder?"?

Following are documents pertaining to recent Freedom of Information Act disputes between the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County and the Illinois Attorney General's office. To enlarge, click or double-click the image: