Hard drive stirs controversy in Deltona

By Rebecca Campbell | Feb 9, 2017

DELTONA, Fla. — A city attorney’s decision to temporarily remove a hard drive has caused controversy among commissioners who have objected to the action.

Deltona City Attorney Becky Vose recently removed the hard drive of a computer in order protect confidential attorney-client information. However, objections have been raised among commissioners who have clashed both with Vose and City Manager Jane Shang, according to a report by the News Journal Online.

An information-technology employee for the city asked Vose for her computer’s password so that the computer could be replaced with a newer model, the report said. In an email to commissioners, Vose alleged that she was told that if she failed to provide the password, it could be changed gaining access to her computer.

Vose claimed that she looked for permission from Shang to remove the hard drive after citing a Florida Bar opinion that obligates lawyers to safeguard information between attorneys and their clients. She alleged that she carried the device around with her as she would have done if a city laptop had been assigned to her.

The hard drive was only returned to the computer after the IT employee told Vose that contents from the old hard drive would be transferred to the new hard drive, with the old one being destroyed in front of her.

However, two city commissioners — Christopher Alcantara and Brian Soukup — saw things differently. So much so, that the News Journal Online reported, that in recent months Soukup has taken offense with Shang. He has called into question her handling in regards to a payout of unused sick and vacation time to a promoted firefighter and an issue over the city’s sewer system.

He has also called for Vose’s resignation over a planned civility decree that could reduce public officials’ criticisms.

Yet, Vose sought an opinion from outside legal counsel from a Lake Mary-based attorney Lonnie Groot, who reportedly said that Vose’s handling of the hard drive was “above board,” according to a separate report from the News Journal Online. Alcantara and Soukup are reported to not have been satisfied with Vose’s decision to seek outside opinion.

During a previous meeting where the matter was intended to be brought up for discussion, Mayor John Masiarczyk said that he did not see proof of wrongdoing and wanted the commission to not “get bogged down” in issues that might not be resolved at the meeting.

However, when a resident attempted to bring up the hard drive during public comment, Masiarczyk stopped the resident, stating that the matter would not be talked about.

Steven Narvaez, the IT manager, is alleged to have weighed in on the issue via emails in November to Deputy City Manager Dale Baker. According to the News Journal Online, Narvaez wrote that he was “very disappointed” in the removal of the hard drive and that Vose’s action “amounts to theft of city property.”

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