On Friday, June 30, Fairhope City Treasurer Deborah Smith submitted a letter of resignation to Fairhope City Council President Jack Burrell.
“Please accept this letter as notice of resignation from my position within the City of Fairhope,” Smith wrote. “As discussed, I am willing to provide the City of Fairhope ninety days’ notice to allow the City time to find a replacement for my position. My last date of work will be on September 29, 2017.”
Smith goes on to write she was pleased to have worked for the city.
“It has been a pleasure working for the City of Fairhope and I have appreciated the opportunity to be of service to the City,” Smith wrote.
During a radio interview July 6 with WABF 1480 AM, Burrell said he was thankful for Smith’s service to the city.
“She has done an incredible job for the city,” Burrell said. “She’s someone who takes great pride in work.”
When asked for Smith’s reasons for resigning, Burrell said she did cite some reasons to him privately, but he declined to elaborate on what was said.
During the interview, Councilman Robert Brown also said another city employee had resigned last week, a member of the city’s IT department that has since been identified as IT Technician Tanner Bonner.
Burrell said the employee had not given a resignation letter to his knowledge and that Mayor Karin Wilson informed them the employee had left because a job opportunity at OWA in Foley had opened up.
Burrell said there may have been an alternative reason for the employee’s departure.
“Unofficially, we heard it had to do with the tracking software placed on people’s computers and some of the other things the IT department was being asked to do by the mayor,” Burrell said.
The Courier was the first to report on the installation of the tracking software on June 2.
Software that tracks employee computer usage and key strokes was placed on the computers of at least seven City of Fairhope employees, allegedly at the direction of Mayor Karin Wilson. Those employees were not informed of the actions at the time of the installations.
Screenshots from a credible source taken from these employees’ computers confirm the presence of the software there.
Those screenshots showed the software was placed on the computers of Human Resources Director Pandora Heathcoe, City Clerk Lisa Hanks, City Treasurer Deborah Smith, Purchasing Department Buyer Randy Weaver, Water and Sewer Superintendent Dan McCrory, Gas Superintendent Robert Rohm and recently retired Electrical Superintendent Jimmy Cluster.
According to confidential sources, the spyware was placed on the PCs by a member of Fairhope’s Information Technology Department at the instruction of Wilson and without notification to the seven employees.
The spyware, SentryPC, allows a user to monitor and control what is done on computer upon which the software is installed.
“Every activity your users perform on the computer and internet is recorded in real-time and in full detail for viewing - you will know exactly what they did and when they did it,” the Sentry PC website stated.
The SentryPC program was installed on Smith, McCrory, Cluster and Rohm’s computers on March 31, Heathcoe’s on April 5, Weaver’s on April 12 and Hanks’ on April 25.
During a city council meeting when questioned by the Courier, Wilson said the software was installed for the city’s protection.
“This is not spyware,” Wilson said. “It is a monitoring system, and I did put it in and quoted the policy manual. Extra level of security was placed on those computers because they needed more protection for the city, and I explained that in so many words. But, this can be done at the mayor’s discretion. It was done out of the IT budget, which IT has a budget for that and I went on the recommendations based on information that was gathered that this needed to be done to protect the city.”
Following the reporting of the tracking software being installed, however, it was removed from those employee’s computers.