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City Manager Bob Bartolotta and Deputy Manager Marlon Brown confer during Friday's special meeting that brought up numerous accusations against them.
Siesta Key Friday, Jan. 6, 2012 8 years ago

Vote to fire Bartolotta fails

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

A forensics investigation at City Hall has revealed that the city of Sarasota’s Information Technology Department has corrupt files that have resulted in the loss of 100 unaccounted for public emails. Information released at a special meeting Friday also uncovered that City Manager Bob Bartolotta and Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown’s computers contained default files that were used to hold emails to investigate other employees. The files may or may not have included exempt information that shouldn’t have been released to them.

The news, which was released by Sarasota-based The Sylint Group, prompted Commissioner Shannon Snyder to call for the firing of Bartolotta.

“I don’t have confidence any more in the city administration,” Snyder said.

Caragiulo was Snyder’s lone supporter on the motion.

“I don’t know how anyone leaves this room without having outrage,” Caragiulo said. “There’s a complete breakdown within this organization.”

Mayor Suzanne Atwell, Vice Mayor Terry Turner and Commissioner Willie Shaw voted against the motion to terminate Bartolotta.

Instead, the commission unanimously agreed with motions to allow The Sylint Group to continue its investigation and give Bartolotta and Brown due process, while referring what the company has collected so far to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The move means the investigation and report will not be available to the public to review in the near future.

Sylint Group President John Jorgenson, who was hired by City Auditor and Clerk Pamela Nadalini to perform a forensic audit of the Information Technology Department as part of a two-part investigation into a computer “scrubbing” accusation made against Bartolotta and Brown, made the following revelations Friday:
• The company can’t locate 100 emails from Bartolotta’s computer that were not backed up by the city’s email server.

• The city’s email server has corrupt files that may have been caused by someone having the ability to delete emails from the server.

• Both Bartolotta and Brown’s computers contained default files on their computers that were used to hold emails used to monitor other employees, including Nadalini, and perform random email searches that may or may not have included exempt information that shouldn’t have been accessible to them or IT Department employees.

• Bartolotta’s default file was used as part of a thumb drive that he uses to keep some emails and information. Brown also admitted to having a similar thumb drive.

• A contract employee did not describe what he did on the day a default file was created for one of the computers.

• Brown received a new computer in July, and city staff has yet to produce the hard drive to his old computer for the company’s forensics review.

• A contract employee was being asked to perform duties and produce email searches that shouldn’t have been done under his or her status as a contract employee.

Bartolotta and Brown both were given the opportunity to provide their sides of the story Friday.

Brown said his new computer contained all the information that was transferred over from his old drive and said the information he requested was to perform an investigation because an allegation was made against an employee in his department.

“If there was exempt information as a part of those emails, I didn’t look at it,” Brown said. “I have nothing to hide.”

Bartolotta, meanwhile, said the deletion of emails happens every day by all employees and that the server is expected to store then all. Bartolotta said the company was unable to confirm there was a scrubbing of emails and urged company officials to use his help and others to find the missing 100 emails. The company also admitted the 100 missing emails could just as easily have been spam or random emails between employees.

“One hundred emails out of hundreds of thousands is minuscule,” said Bartolotta, who also explained that he and other department heads routinely search city emails to help the public and the media and to monitor their employees when needed. “There’s a perception being planted these are devious issues when I don’t believe they are.”

Said Bartolotta: “I can tell you categorically neither of us has directed anyone to delete anything from the server, and the thumb drive you are referring to is sitting on my desk. All you had to do is ask for it.”

City Attorney Bob Fournier told the commission he believed it was making the proper decision to further the investigation, which he believes will help find the lost emails and produce complete transparency, while reducing the potential for liability.

Atwell was happy with the decisions made.

“I do agree fury has risen to a new level right now, but it doesn’t mean we should take a backseat toward providing due process toward our city manager,” Atwell said.

For more information, pick up a copy of Thursday’s Jan. 12 Sarasota Observer.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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