Computer scare at town office

MICHAEL RISINIT
THE JOURNAL NEWS
Original publication: Feb. 16, 2001

KENT A suspicious-looking computer screen caused town employees to
contact the Kent Police Department this week, worried that someone had
meddled with the town's assessment records.

Police confiscated the computer Wednesday, but as of yesterday their
investigation had all but ruled out anyone tampering with the assessment data.

"It's still being investigated," said Kent police Detective Gerald Locascio. "But to
the best of our knowledge, it doesn't look like anybody's information was
modified."

Locascio said a final determination wouldn't be made until next week, after
computer technicians from the state Office of Real Property Services examine
one more aspect of the computer. He declined to describe what the technicians
would inspect.

The Town Board was scheduled to meet last night to discuss office security.
Kent is one of three Putnam towns in the midst of updating their assessment files.
Concern about the computer arose when the Kent assessor's clerk came into
work Wednesday morning.

"There were screens that were up that weren't there when we left," Kent
assessor Christopher Boryk said.

Locascio said one of the screens was used to save data to an external device,
such as a disk. He said police didn't find a disk in the machine.

Boryk's office is part of a mostly open work environment in the Kent Town
Offices on Route 52. A large room with several desks leads to short hallways
where a visitor can find offices for the town clerk, the assessor and Supervisor
Annmarie Baisley. Boryk's office also houses personnel, insurance and other files
that various town employees regularly utilize.

"My gut feeling is that it just (malfunctioned)," Baisley said.

A property's assessment is public information, but someone breaking into the
system could change that assessment, resulting in a higher or lower tax bill.

Baisley said she set the office's alarm and locked up about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday
after a Town Board workshop meeting. The alarm system, she said, was still
armed when her secretary arrived the next morning at 8:30. Locascio said there
were no signs of forced entry around the office's doors.

Kent, Patterson and Southeast began reassessing their real estate last year. Early
next month, the three towns will send out impact notices explaining how the
process will affect a homeowner's taxes. Boryk said the police investigation
wouldn't delay the mailings.

George Michaud, director of the county Office of Real Property Services, said
his office could provide records to restore Kent's material if needed.

Boryk said his office door doesn't lock but "maybe that would change." He said
he didn't think the recent incident was part of some larger conspiracy.

"There's no notes from G. Gordon Liddy," Boryk said. "It's not Kent-gate yet."



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