Using information gleaned from the hard drives of a dozen village-owned computers, former commissioner Theresa Steinbach has named Mayor Anthony Calderone, her next-door neighbor, as the culprit responsible for allegedly hacking into her municipal e-mail account.
The accusation was filed in federal court this month as an amendment to the 2006 suit in which Steinbach accused three unknown Forest Park officials of privacy violations. Supporting the accusation is a third-party report that concludes the mayor’s laptop was used to access the e-mail accounts of five employees and public officials, including Steinbach’s.
“No, I haven’t been looking at anybody’s e-mails, quite frankly,” Calderone, who was served Friday, said of the civil claim. “I don’t have the capacity to do that.”
The mayor called Steinbach’s accusation “disgusting,” and questioned whether his former political rival is somehow framing him. When Steinbach filed the suit in 2006, she was gearing up for a mayoral run against Calderone. Steinbach declared her candidacy shortly after filing the suit. She lost the race.
“I’m really sincerely hoping that there’s no shenanigans taking place,” Calderone said. “I’m hoping that I wasn’t set up.”
Police officer Craig Lundt, also the village’s IT specialist, was named in November 2006.
The third unnamed defendant in Steinbach’s complaint is believed to be a village employee or elected official.
Steinbach is alleging that Calderone, Lundt and the unnamed defendant forwarded 11 e-mails from her village account to the mayor. For each of those allegations, Steinbach provided a date. She is suing the defendants in their individual and official capacity for violations of the federal wiretapping act, violating state law with respect to eavesdropping and computer fraud.
A computer forensics firm in Chicago, Elijah Technologies, authored the report stating that Calderone’s laptop was used to access several e-mail accounts. The firm was chosen by both sides in the lawsuit as the neutral expert for the discovery process. It carried out its investigation of village computers based on instructions agreed to by both sides.
According to Elijah Technologies, someone logged into the village’s e-mail system on the mayor’s laptop on June 2, 2006, using an e-mail address assigned to Lundt. The session lasted three minutes. In that time, the user accessed e-mail accounts for Village Administrator Mike Sturino, former public works director Robert Kutak, former police lieutenant Steve Johnsen, former commissioner Patrick Doolin and Steinbach.
“One e-mail was read during the session,” James Murray, director of forensic services for Elijah Technologies, said in his report. The message was a test e-mail sent to Steinbach’s account.
In a November motion filed with the court, Steinbach’s attorney argued that it was in fact the mayor-not Lundt-who used the laptop.
” … the individual who logged into the Hostway sitemail account from Mayor Anthony Calderone’s laptop computer on June 2, 2006, could not have been Craig Lundt. For, upon information and belief, Craig Lundt was out sick on June 2, 2006,” the plaintiff’s attorney said in his brief.
In an amended complaint filed Dec. 4, Steinbach’s attorney argued that Calderone was not authorized to access any of those accounts and that each of the accounts belonged to political rivals or employees who “disagreed with Mayor Anthony Calderone on political issues.”
Sturino said he had not read Steinbach’s new complaint, but described his e-mail account as “an open book as far as the elected officials go.” Any information that he may have in his village-maintained e-mail account would be turned over upon request, said Sturino, and it’s difficult to imagine what would have motivated the mayor to snoop, as alleged by Steinbach.
Sturino said that, as a village employee, he has no expectation of privacy in using the account. Additional information found on the hard drives at village hall is still being scoured, according to court filings.
Steinbach did not return a phone call seeking comment.
About three weeks before Steinbach’s amended suit, attorneys for the village asked the court to issue a summary judgment on the grounds that, in part, she had no reasonable expectation of privacy.
A municipal policy on the use of village-maintained e-mails and computers is clear that employees do not have an expectation of privacy. Elected officials are supposed to sign the same policy, but Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz has said that her office has no record of Steinbach ever reviewing the policy.
The document does not state who at village hall would be responsible for monitoring e-mail accounts, and according to the mayor, that task has never been assigned.
Shortly after Steinbach filed her suit in 2006, the Review reported that Forest Park does not have a signed copy of this policy in Steinbach’s personnel file. A February 2003 memo suggests the policy was distributed to Steinbach and other commissioners, according to the clerk, but that memo predates the municipal elections in April of that year. In fact, the crop of village council members who took office in 2003 may be in the same category.
“I can’t confirm that any of the newly elected officials got it,” Moritz said of the policy in 2006.
Calderone was the only council member from that election to sign the policy, and his signature was recorded in February 2003-nearly four years after his first term as mayor, but before his re-election in April.
However, the mayor said that since Steinbach filed her suit alleging privacy violations, the village has conducted an internal investigation regarding the unsigned policy. According to Calderone, Steinbach balked when presented with the document and refused to sign it.
Paperwork about that refusal should have been included in her personnel file, but never was, Calderone said.
That investigation has involved the former village clerk, Joan White, and the former village administrator, Matt O’Shea, who would have been responsible for having the policy signed following the 2003 election. O’Shea did not return a phone call seeking comment on the mayor’s claim. White confirmed that she is working with the village’s attorneys on the matter. She declined to comment on whether Steinbach ever saw the policy.