A former commissioner who filed a lawsuit against the village two years ago has yet to provide the court with evidence supporting her claim of privacy violations.
Theresa Steinbach, who held office from 2003 to 2007, has alleged that e-mail hackers forwarded several messages from an account established and maintained for her by the municipality. At least one of those messages, according to the suit, was sent to Mayor Anthony Calderone, whom Steinbach challenged for the village’s top office.
Steinbach has said the e-mail messages were private.
Since filing the complaint in U.S. District Court on Aug. 4, 2006, seemingly little progress has been made. Only a series of short hearings has been held since March 2007 and two unnamed defendants remain unidentified, according to court records.
The village’s IT director, Craig Lundt, was named as a defendant in November 2006 after originally being identified as another John Doe.
Steinbach and her attorney, Charles Mudd Jr., have been collecting evidence for the case since Aug. 10, 2006. It was on that date that a judge granted Steinbach permission to begin reviewing computer records related to her claim.
During a brief telephone interview in late July, Mudd said evidence was still being collected and that “at the moment” he was no closer to identifying either of the John Doe defendants. Mudd said he would know more about the status of the case after the first week of August, but has not since returned phone calls.
“We’re still in the discovery process,” Mudd said last month.
Though Lundt and the municipality have denied any wrongdoing, Lundt’s defense attorney William Leonard did not point to the lack of movement in the case as an indication of a weak claim. Rather, said Leonard, progress has been delayed by a “bug in the software” used to scan the village’s computers.
The process has taken “longer than we all expected, initially,” said Leonard, because of “issues that were identified with the way discoveries were performed.”
Village Administrator Mike Sturino confirmed that Forest Park has handed over several computers in compliance with court orders. That process has been disruptive and costly, he said, and all in the name of a suit without merit.
“I’m not aware of any bug in any software,” Sturino said.
According to Steinbach’s suit, she discovered in July 2006 that several e-mails had been forwarded to the mayor between March and June of that year. A village policy states that e-mails sent using the municipality’s network can be monitored “at any time, with or without notice to employees.” However, the village has no record that Steinbach – or any of the commissioners elected in 2003 – were informed of the policy. The only elected official who signed the policy is Calderone, according to records maintained by the village clerk, but he did so about two months before the 2003 election.