GREENBURGH TOWN BOARD TAKES ACTION TO PROTECT TOWN’S E-MAIL SYSTEM
On April 28 the Greenburgh Town Board authorized Police Chief John Kapica to investigate how a resident obtained a confidential internal email between seven public officials and their attorney. Supervisor Feiner subsequently said the state police would have been a better choice. The breach of confidentiality without the approval of the client (the Town Board) compromised the attorney-client privilege and was not in the interest of open government, good government, or Greenburgh taxpayers.
The investigation was requested after a chain of emails was released containing privileged communications between the town board and the town attorney detailing information on a land acquisition or lease that, if publicly known, would hamper the town’s ability to negotiate the lowest price possible. We can’t negotiate the lowest price when our options, potential offers and negotiating weaknesses are disclosed. That is not open government; that is expensive government.
Because of the sensitive information contained in the email, and because the eight people who received the original email denied distributing it, there was a very real possibility that our system was hacked, which is a class E felony.
The board believed at that point a forensic investigation was warranted. We did this publicly and we did it by resolution to make sure such searches are rare. The investigation was limited to the town email accounts of eight public officials, which included each of us. No private citizen was asked or required to turn over any email logs. Our goal was to uncover the truth about the security and confidentiality of town email communications.
The supervisor admitted he was the source of the leak just prior to the board authorizing the investigation, but the board felt that inconsistencies in statements made through the course of that week made the investigation still a necessity. That proved correct when the chief discovered the email had been sent to other accounts as well.
The report written by the chief also included a section on how our town’s email system works, when backups are conducted, who has remote access, and how someone can use our system without being detected. After the report was hand delivered to each town board member by a police officer, in envelopes marked “privileged and confidential,” the supervisor sent it to various media outlets.
We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect the security of Greenburgh’s electronic information database. We believe in open government and in obeying the Freedom of Information Law; those principles allow the town to protect confidential communication. Our ability to negotiate the lowest prices for land acquisitions or leases is key to serving the taxpayers of Greenburgh in the best way we can. We believe good government is as important as open government.
As always we are all available to answer any of your questions or concerns about this or any other matter.
Councilmembers Eddie Mae Barnes, Steve Bass, Diana Juettner and Francis Sheehan