More than a year after filing suit for alleged privacy violations, former village commissioner and mayoral candidate Theresa Steinbach has no intention of dropping the complaint, according to her attorney, despite months of inquiries that have yielded little movement in the case.
Steinbach’s attorney, Charles Mudd, Jr., said the defendants in the case have cooperated with his client’s efforts to collect evidence showing that at least one village employee hacked into a municipal e-mail account established in Steinbach’s name. Still, federal court records show the case has not moved past the discovery process and the last significant filing occurred in February when defense attorneys answered Steinbach’s complaint with a blanket denial of any wrong doing.
Mudd attributed the slow progress in the case to the tedious process of collecting evidence from computer hard drives.
“That’s just been due to the nature of electronic discovery,” Mudd said.
In November 2006, Steinbach amended her original complaint and named the village and its IT manager, Craig Lundt, as defendants in the case. Two other defendants are identified only as John Doe 2 and John Doe 3.
Steinbach declined to comment on any aspect of the lawsuit and referred all questions to her attorney.
Information from a dozen computer hard drives at village hall has been collected, Mudd said, though he declined to say which village employees those computers were issued to. The identity of the unnamed defendants has not yet been established.
“Not yet, but I think we’re getting close,” Mudd said.
Calls to the village’s attorney in the case, Claudia Diaz, were not returned.
While serving as a village commissioner, Steinbach was given a village e-mail account. In July 2006, Steinbach discovered several e-mails had been forwarded to Mayor Anthony Calderone between March and June that year, according to her suit. At the time, Steinbach had announced her plans to challenge Calderone in the 2007 election. The loss ousted her from the council after a single four-year term.
This discovery is the basis for the civil case and her claims to an unspecified amount in damages. Court records show that Steinbach is demanding a jury trial.
In all, Steinbach is alleging seven counts of misconduct, including violations of the federal wiretap act, computer fraud and eavesdropping. Steinbach alleges that Lundt improperly accessed her e-mails at the village’s behest.
“Upon information and belief, defendant Lundt acted to serve the interests of his employer, the village of Forest Park, at the direction of defendants John Doe 2 and John Doe 3,” Steinbach stated in her court filing.
A claim alleging the “public disclosure of private facts” has been dropped from the complaint.
“My client is fully committed to litigation,” Mudd said, and speculation that the suit was filed as an election ploy is false. “(Steinbach) remains committed to the principles that prompted her to file the complaint.”
The Forest Park Review reported in November last year that although the village has a policy on the use of municipally maintained e-mail accounts, there is no record that Steinbach was ever informed of the policy. A memo from February of 2003 suggests that Steinbach and other village commissioners received the document, however, that memo predates Steinbach’s term in office. Village officials could not explain the discrepancy.
“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.”