Sunday, June 10, 2012

FALLBROOK: Ex-tech director says school district officials ordered her to destroy emails

The North County Times story is extremely different from the Union Tribune version of this story. (Both versions can be seen below.) The UT author (and, very likely, her boss, Ricky Young) seem to have relied entirely on school district lawyer Dan Shinoff for their story. Interestingly, the Union-Tribune has kept silent on the story of the defamation suit against this blogger by Dan Shinoff's law firm, which is set for trial on September 7, 2012. Ironically, given the discussion in the article below about the hacking of Fallbrook's emails, my "Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz" page (and countless other pages in my web site) have been hacked again and again over the past several years.

FALLBROOK: Ex-tech director says school district officials ordered her to destroy emails
June 10, 2012

The former director of educational technology for the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District has filed a $972,000 civil lawsuit against the district, alleging she was wrongfully fired after being falsely accused of snooping through emails.

The suit, filed May 31 by Encinitas resident Elaine Allyn, includes allegations of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wasteful spending. She also claims that a district investigation into a teacher suspected of videotaping students was hampered because an administrator had ordered emails deleted, inadvertently destroying possible evidence.

Besides the $972,000 cited in the lawsuit, Allyn's attorney Susan Curran said her client also will be seeking lost past and future income, lost benefits, attorney fees and punitive damages.

Dennis Bixler, assistant superintendent of human resources, said the school board meet in closed session last month to discuss the claim Allyn had filed as a prerequisite to the lawsuit. Trustees rejected part of the claim and sent other parts back without action because they were untimely, meaning they had happened too far in the past, he said.

[Maura Larkins comment: This is exactly what the district has been instructed to do, by San Diego County Office of Education, with ALL CLAIMS.]

In the complaint, Allyn said she had been a district employee for 18 years and was earning about $109,000 a year when she was fired in May.

According to the lawsuit, Allyn had been subjected to six years of harassment from Ray Proctor, associate superintendent of business services at the district, who had become vindictive after learning she had complained that he made an inappropriate comment about her in a Cabinet meeting in 2005.

...According to the lawsuit, Proctor had said Allyn must have "slept with the vendor" to get the district its good cellphone contract.

Allyn said in the lawsuit that the human resources department ignored her complaint about Proctor, but her accusation was leaked to him. For the next six years, according to the suit, he was overly critical of her, giving her smaller budgets than her male counterparts and denying her staff assistance.

Also in the lawsuit, Proctor is said to have asked Allyn in early August 2011 to wipe out or cleanse the district's entire electronic data imaging from its archive system and to wipe out all emails that were in the trash bin of the active system.

The district hired Candy Singh as the new superintendent last August. According to the complaint, Singh also requested Allyn delete old imaging and emails, and Allyn said she again refused because it was a violation of state and federal laws.

At Singh's and Proctor's insistence, however, Allyn later hired a consultant to help dismantle the archive system, according to the lawsuit.

Last January, the lawsuit continues, Allyn was asked to assist in the investigation against a teacher suspected of videotaping students. Allyn said she scanned the video camera and found nothing incriminating, but was unable to provide a backlog of the teacher's emails, as requested by private investigator Bob Price, because there were few to read since Proctor and Singh had order a change to the archive system.

According to the lawsuit, Proctor asked Allyn for an administrative password to access additional log files on the computer system.

After she complied, Allyn said she was called in to Proctor's office and accused of illegally accessing and reading employee emails.

Allyn said the accusation was unfounded, as employee emails are not considered private and district policy gives her the right and ability to access emails and electronic files without prior notice or consent.

Bixler, however, said that while the emails are not considered private, and supervisors have the right to look into the emails of subordinates, Allyn was looking into the emails of her supervisors.

[All school emails are public records, arent' they?]

According to the lawsuit, Allyn said she was accused of looking into Singh's emails because she knew about complaints against the superintendent, including how $30,000 had been spent on new office furniture and remodeling. Allyn said in the suit that she knew of the complaints about the spending because people in the district were talking about them, not because she snooped in emails.

But according to a district notice outlining existing causes to discipline Allyn, which Bixler signed April 12 and provided to the North County Times, the investigator hired by the district found other indications that Allyn was looking into the superintendent's and other administrators' emails.

In her lawsuit, Allyn denied ever looking into the superintendent's emails.

[Maura Larkins comment: Both the elementary and high school districts in Fallbrook buy their liability insurance through SDCOE-JPA. Daniel Shinoff is the SDCOE-JPA lawyer who usually represents the district when it is sued.]

Fallbrook schools in fight over alleged email hacks
By Ashly McGlone
June 12, 2012 at 12:01 a.m.

The former technology director is suing the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District for nearly $1 million, alleging she was wrongfully terminated for erasing emails from the district’s email system. She claims she was told to do so, but the district accuses her of hacking.

Elaine Allyn of Encinitas claims the superintendent and assistant superintendent of business services directed her to dismantle the district’s email archive in August, permanently erasing emails in trash folders systemwide.

She also claims she was asked to change district computers so they would retain emails for one week — down from three years.

Her lawsuit says she told the superintendent the move would violate state and federal laws governing public agency records retention, and she was ultimately directed to keep undeleted emails for no more than one year, and deleted emails for no more than one week.

Allyn was fired May 7. The district claims she repeatedly hacked into administrator emails to snoop on her superiors for several months, and initiated unauthorized email deletions in “an attempt to evade detection of her deceitful activities” and destroy evidence of her email access.

District officials say Allyn’s actions were discovered in February when she was asked to retrieve the emails of a teacher under investigation by the district in a separate matter. (According to Allyn’s lawsuit, the teacher was accused of improperly videotaping students.)

When she could provide only limited documentation to an investigator looking into the allegations against the teacher, Allyn was placed under investigation and on a leave of absence.

Allyn maintains she accessed her boss’s emails solely to troubleshoot problems with their accounts and was following the boss’s orders, not acting on her own. Allyn claims in the lawsuit she was targeted for reporting sexual harassment by an administrator.

“I have never hacked,” Allyn said in an interview. “They have trumped up these charges, what has been my job for 18 years now and make it seem like I am untrustworthy, and hacking is appalling to me when I have tried to do my job with the utmost integrity and trustworthiness.”

Dennis Bixler, assistant superintendent of human resources, said the district stands by the charges against Allyn and her termination.

“The termination of Ms. Allyn was a just termination based on numerous acts of wrongdoing and violations of policies, procedures and laws. We look forward to being vindicated in time when this case is addressed in court,” Bixler said.

Attorney Dan Shinoff will represent the district. Allyn, whose final salary totaled $109,077 a year, retained attorney Susan Curran, of Encinitas-based Curran & Curran Law, to represent her.

The district has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.