The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Rave

May 28, 2013

Joe Bartello's loopy laptop

— It is difficult now even to recall why Sunbury required Councilman Joseph Bartello to surrender his city-owned computer.

The notion surfaced from a pre-election flurry of suspicions and allegations regarding the city’s responsibility to regulate changes and improvements to a former industrial site that was being converted to another use, an activity that raised concerns about proper procedures for environmental protection.

Councilman Bartello, who has mentioned publicly an interest in becoming a write-in candidate for mayor in the general election, was responsible for overseeing the codes enforcement department.

Bartello publicly asserted that he was being thwarted by Mayor David Persing, other members of council and, perhaps, by staff in the codes enforcement office, when it came to applying regulations and requiring permits associated with reorganizing a site formerly occupied by Knight Celotex Company.

From that sprang a freedom of information request from Moran Industries, current owners and occupants of the site, for documents, emails and records that would verify the councilman’s assertion of grave concerns and persistent diligence to illuminate and resolve them.

The public record resided on the public laptop computer in the private hands of council member Bartello was asked to surrender it so that the city could fish out the relevant and pertinent information to fulfill the request for open records.

At first, Bartello appeared to balk by missing a deadline for the exchange. The city maneuvered toward a search warrant and possible arrest on theft charges. Then, at the 11th hour, Councilman Bartello brought in the laptop.

Now there is a report that a forensic review of the technology revealed that there was a hard drive change at the last minute. Apparently, technological detectives can determine this with some precision.

Councilman Bartello confirms he had to reinstall hard drive information because, lo and behold, the laptop was acting up just before he turned it in.

Given the ubiquitous role of technology in modern communications and record keeping, Sunbury (and any other municipality or level of government) should have laws, ordinances and sanctions in place that severely sanction anyone who attempts to interfere with proper public administration by replacing, revising or destroying digital records, especially after there has been an order to surrender and reveal.

If not, Sunbury should quickly research, propose and enact such an ordinance so that a coincidence like this — improbable as it might seem — can never happen again.

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