In separate court filings, both the village and a municipal employee named in a lawsuit filed by Commissioner Terry Steinbach, denied accusations that they illegally hacked into the commissioner’s e-mail account to access what Steinbach maintains were private communications.
Craig Lundt, the director of Emergency Management, filed his response to Steinbach’s suit in U.S. District Court earlier this month. On Jan. 26, Lundt’s co-defendant, the village of Forest Park, filed a similar response and cited specific policies to refute Steinbach’s claim that the messages were in fact privileged.
Two other defendants are also named in the suit, however, their identities are unknown and mentioned simply as John Doe 2 and John Doe 3.
In her suit, Steinbach accuses Lundt of working at the behest of the unidentified parties to violate state privacy laws. Specifically, the commissioner claims that e-mails not intended for Mayor Anthony Calderone were forwarded to him by the defendants.
“To the extent that plaintiff has described John Doe 2 and John Doe 3 as being persons who acted in concert with defendant Craig Lundt to engage in the wrongful conduct described in plaintiff’s verified amended complaint, defendant Craig Lundt denies their existence and, therefore, denies this allegation,” defense attorney Gregory Condon stated in court documents.
In her original complaint filed in August 2006, Steinbach listed three nameless defendants and the village as the parties responsible for the alleged violation. After receiving the court’s permission to seize evidence from the village’s e-mail provider, Hostway Corporation, Steinbach named Lundt as the likely culprit.
In October 2006, Steinbach’s attorney Charles Mudd Jr., said his review of the Hostway Corporation’s records did not reveal who may have accessed Steinbach’s account, but Lundt is the village employee immediately responsible for maintaining the program.
“The only person who could have done it was the IT person,” Mudd said in an interview with the Review in October.
In her suit, Steinbach identifies Lundt as the village’s “IT specialist” responsible for administering the e-mail program. According to court records, Lundt acknowledges that he helped Steinbach establish her village-maintained e-mail account in 2003. He also stipulated to helping Steinbach access the server directly, and provided the username and password for her to do so.
However, Lundt refuted claims that he and Steinbach were the only two people with knowledge of these access codes. He also requested proof of Steinbach’s claim that her account was accessed and that messages were forwarded without her knowledge.
The village’s policy on municipally-maintained e-mail accounts clearly outlines that there is no expectation of privacy. However, the village clerk confirmed in November 2006 that there is no record of Steinbach receiving a copy of this policy. A February 2003 memo suggests the policy may have been distributed to Steinbach and other commissioners, the clerk said, but that memo predates the municipal elections in April when Steinbach was elected to office.
In its denial, the village of Forest Park said it had no knowledge as to the identities of John Doe 2 and John Doe 3. Coupled with its position that any e-mails sent on the village’s system were property of the municipality, Forest Park denied any wrongdoing.
“Forest Park denies that any e-mail communication sent to, from, or within the Forest Park e-mail system is private,” defense attorney Matthew Iverson said in court documents.
Further, the village denied that Lundt intentionally read any of Steinbach’s e-mails or that he was directed to duplicate or transmit those messages.
“With respect to e-mail and instant messaging confidentiality, the village reserves the right to monitor all messages at any time, with or without notice to employees,” according to the policy. “The use of a system log-on or password should not convey an expectation of privacy to the employee.”
Steinbach is calling for a jury trial to resolve the dispute and is seeking an unspecified amount in damages. A status conference is scheduled for March 28.