More than one representative of the Township of Perth South has stated over the past week that there was no sensitive information on a desktop computer that went missing from the municipality’s office some time last year. And there have also been repeated statements that the case is not being treated by Perth South administrators as a “theft.”
But that hasn’t changed the level of concern for Rannoch-area resident Barnby Cade.
Cade staged a short-lived, one-man sit-in on Tuesday, Sept. 17, urging Perth South Councillors to conduct a meeting about the computer investigation in public. He was eventually persuaded to vacate the Council Chambers following a unanimous vote to go “in camera.” But after councillors subsequently swung open the doors and reported a portion of what had transpired — including an explanation about why it took seven months to report the missing computer to police — he responded, “That’s not even an excuse. That’s the way I feel about it.”
The case was brought to the public’s eye in early September when Councillor Liz Armstrong asked during the public portion of a Council meeting for details regarding the investigation. Armstrong cited information from an unnamed St. Marys resident who is not a police officer and is not associated with Perth South, but who is familiar with the case.
In a subsequent interview with the St. Marys Journal Argus, Perth South CAO Tim Ivanyshyn said he was “taken off guard” by Armstrong’s decision to bring up the matter in public. He agreed to return to the Sept. 17 meeting with a report, but advised it would have to take place in Closed Session due to the possible implications on Township security.
An audio recording from the Sept. 17 meeting, available for download at www.perthsouth.ca, reveals that Cade — present, as he usually is, in the audience during Council meetings — objected to the move.
“I believe this should be open to everyone in the township,” Cade states on the recording, before asking for a recorded vote on going into closed session. He got his wish for the recorded vote, with Councillor Don Henderson making the request. But with all seven members of Council voting in favour of the move, Cade didn’t get his second wish.
In an interview after to the Sept. 17 meeting, Ivanyshyn told the Journal Argus that he wished to “clarify” the characterization of the case in last week’s newspaper. The headline on the article read: “Councillor questions delay in theft investigation.”
“We have not said in our statements that this is a ‘theft’,” Ivanyshyn told the Journal Argus. “We are referring to it as a ‘missing computer,’ as the results are inconclusive at this point.”
On Sept. 17, after emerging from Closed Session, Mayor Bob Wilhelm read a prepared series of statements about the computer, which had been used by Treasurer Rebecca Clothier until May, 2012, when she transferred all the necessary information and software from it onto a newly-acquired computer.
It was then set aside, and some time between May and November of 2012, it disappeared.
“The missing computer is a black tower unit, 2007 HP desktop,” Wilhelm explained. “All information is stored on a server and not on the computers, and is backed up daily and stored off-site. No information is stored on the laptops or computers, other than email addresses, etcetera. All computer information is password protected.”
The mayor added that the value of computer, if it were to be sold as is, would be between $50-$100. He also outlined the people who have ready access to the office area from which the computer went missing.
Regarding the delay in notifying police, Wilhelm said Ivanyshyn’s first act after discovering its disappearance was to contact the township’s information technology provider. The CAO, Wilhelm explained, wanted to find out if the IT provider had removed the computer and not informed anyone from the township.
In late April, 2013, he did another check of the Perth South building and with the IT provider. Then on June 18, the CAO contacted Perth South OPP.
“We are still waiting for a final report from the OPP,” Wilhelm concluded.