Leadville – Questions still abound at the Lake County Courthouse a week after Sheriff Amy Reyes accused the Board of County Commissioners of improperly accessing her office’s emails.
On Sept. 16, Reyes publicly alleged that the BOCC, and/or its legal team, had accessed the email inboxes of former Lake County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers Maria Chavez, Nicole Garner and Chelsa Parsons.
The women are currently suing the BOCC and sheriff’s office in civil court for unlawful sex discrimination, retaliation and violation of rights.
Reyes called the alleged activities a security breach, raising concern over the confidentiality of sensitive victim files found on the sheriff’s office server.
The sheriff also claimed that the BOCC gave former IT Director Johnny Aird an ultimatum: provide the BOCC with global access to sheriff’s office emails or lose his job. Aird allegedly granted the BOCC global access on Sept. 4. He was fired on Sept. 13.
The BOCC has denied all of Reyes’ claims. “No individual commissioner has tried to access sheriff’s office emails,” Commissioner Sarah Mudge said.
Aird, who was advised by his attorney to not speak to the media in detail, said he supports Reyes’ allegations.
One new piece of information that has emerged since the Herald reported on Reyes’ accusations last week is the presence of Forensic Pursuit, a third-party IT firm, in the email saga.
Forensic Pursuit was hired by the BOCC to collect electronically stored information outlined in the discovery agreement for Chavez, Garner and Parsons’ civil case.
“The search parameters were specifically tailored to look for emails sent to and among county personnel only ... and which addressed the subject matter at issue in the lawsuit,” Mudge wrote in a public statement. “The directions to the IT professional specifically excluded any emails potentially sent solely among LCSO personnel.”
Yet the email exports shown to Reyes by Aird, messages allegedly exported by a user entitled “bocclegal,” included emails beyond the permitted scope and time period of the discovery agreement.
Reyes also claims that she did not know Forensic Pursuit had been hired to collect information for the former dispatchers’ lawsuit. Mudge alleges that the sheriff’s office attorney for the civil case, a different attorney from the one representing the BOCC, knew of Forensic Pursuit’s role in the discovery and would likely have informed Reyes.
“They shouldn’t have accessed anything without my knowledge,” Reyes told the Herald.
Reyes informed the BOCC that she planned to withdraw from the county server the morning after she publicly confronted the board. Former Sheriff Rod Fenske operated with an independent server before Reyes took office; Reyes said she joined the BOCC’s server in hopes of being transparent.
“I will be separating my office from the county IT for this very reason of lack of trust,” Reyes wrote in an email to the commissioners.
On Sept. 16, the BOCC approved a new contract with Forensic Pursuit for a third-party audit and ongoing IT support while the county functions without an IT director. The BOCC is worried, Mudge said, about the safety of the county server that Aird once managed.
Reyes, on the other hand, is in the process of hiring Aird back to the county as an independent contractor. Aird will be tasked with separating the office’s server, as well as ongoing IT needs.
Chavez, who is currently employed at the sheriff’s office as a victim’s advocate, started contacting victims this week. She is telling clients Reyes’ side of the story, alerting them that their information has allegedly been compromised.
“People have been asking why I aired the county’s dirty laundry,” Reyes told the Herald. “Maybe I should’ve been more quiet but part of me says no … I made a promise to be transparent.”
The sheriff and the commissioners have not met in person to discuss the email saga since the allegations were made public on Sept. 16.
“The biggest issue here is that nobody trusts anybody,” Reyes said.
The Herald Democrat in Leadville is published by Arkansas Valley Publishing Co., the parent company of The Mountain Mail.