County Commissioners expressed concerns about the accuracy and integrity of their meeting minutes during a public work session held yesterday. Commissioners discovered earlier this week that their minutes had been altered after initially being reviewed by the Board in a way that did not accurately reflect their public discussions.

The Beaver Countian obtained a copy of all public work session minutes for 2017 in response to a Right-To-Know request it received this week. A review of the minutes from May 31st showed they materially misstated a question asked by the Beaver Countian and an answer given by Commissioner Tony Amadio related to former County Solicitor Joseph Askar and Friendship Ridge. Commissioners began investigating the matter and discovered the minutes had been altered after they first reviewed them, with misinformation being added about discussions at the meeting.

The Beaver Countian was initially told the weekly meeting minutes it received for January through September were “official;” the county’s law department told the public during yesterday’s work session that Commissioners had reviewed the minutes but the Board never actually voted to approve them. Chief County Solicitor Garen Fedeles said that meeting minutes for the entire year will need to be added to next week’s agenda for Commissioners to ratify.

“We have never voted on meeting minutes before, have you in the past,” Commissioner Sandie Egley asked Commissioner Tony Amadio?

“We never took minutes,” Amadio responded.

Although the Board of Commissioners had always taken minutes from public meetings where votes occurred, they only began taking minutes of work sessions following the election of Commissioners Dan Camp and Sandie Egley.

Commissioner Tony Amadio repeatedly stated his concern about the minutes being altered and expressed unease at the prospect of now being asked to vote on nearly a year’s worth of them.

“My problem here is the minutes are the minutes, they keep changing,” said Amadio. “The minutes that I had in my packet are different from the ones that we have now […] Where are these minutes? Where do we keep them? Is there an electronic file?”

Solicitor Fedeles told Commissioners that the minutes are saved as electronic files on a shared network drive for the Board, and that a hard copy is filed by the Chief Clerk. All personnel in the Commissioner’s Office, the Law Department, and the Information Technology (IT) Department have access to the electronic files.

The hard copy of the minutes kept by Chief County Clerk Cynthia Cook did not match the electronic version of the minutes which were printed out and provided to the Beaver Countian in answer to its Right-To-Know request. Cook told the Beaver Countian earlier this week that she was not the one who added the “correction” to the May 31st meeting minutes at issue. All three Commissioners and their administrative assistants also told the Beaver Countian they were unaware of who made the changes.

Commissioner Amadio continued to express his concerns in response to questions about how the security of public records is maintained by the county.

“There was a change in the minutes recently that doesn’t even make any sense,” said Commissioner Amadio, referring to the May 31st minutes. “It doesn’t make any sense. That’s the question.”

“That’s why this issue is being discussed,” agreed Commissioner Egley. “Looking at this we have to review our security because obviously something was done and there are no answers as of today and we recognize this.”

Amadio asked the Law Department to review if the Board is actually required to keep meeting minutes for work sessions, or if Commissioners could return to a past practice of only keeping minutes for the public meetings where resolutions are voted on.

“You don’t take official action [at work sessions], you talk about things in front of the public,” said Amadio. “What are we trying to keep a record on?

Solicitor Fedeles advised the Board they were required to take minutes at all public meetings including their work sessions. By the end of yesterday, the Law Department had provided Commissioners with a copy of the law.

“I think we have created a problem for ourselves and quite frankly I don’t know how I am going to vote for 40 sets of minutes in one motion,” said Amadio. “God only knows what’s in there […] I don’t know what’s in what set of minutes now. The ones I have didn’t have that ‘correction’ in there.”

County Commissioners and the County Law Department had met with staff from the IT Department prior to yesterday’s work session and were informed there was no practical way of identifying who altered the public meeting minutes.

“I think that all three of us, everyone at this table, was surprised to hear that at looking at that file you can’t tell who opened it and made those changes,” said Egley. “So that’s the concern.”

“I have a hard time believing that, I don’t know why,” added Amadio.

At one point during yesterday’s meeting, a citizen who was present in the audience looked toward the Chief County Clerk, saying, “That’s the person who keeps the minutes.”

“It’s not her fault at all, it’s somebody with the knowledge was able to get into that file and alter it,” responded Amadio, later adding, “This lady takes meticulous notes, she’s good at what she does, but I have no idea how somebody could have gotten in there.”

Following the public work session, the Beaver Countian had a discussion with county officials about the concept of “metadata.” Metadata summarizes basic information about a computer file, including its author, creation date, which user account last modified the file and when those modifications occurred. The Beaver Countian told county officials it was considering a Right-To-Know request for copies of the digital files so they could be analyzed — officials then accessed that data for themselves from a user interface in the Windows operating system.

The County Law Department subsequently held another meeting late yesterday afternoon with the IT Department to discuss what they had discovered. IT Staff told county officials they had been confused about the nature of the controversy involving modifications to the meeting minutes, initially believing that changes to the minutes had been made and printed but not actually saved to the file. County officials say the IT department has now confirmed that the metadata can reliably be used to determine which person’s account last made alterations to the files and when.

County Solicitors are expected to schedule a meeting with Commissioners, IT Staff, and the Human Resources Department to discuss the latest findings and decide what steps should be taken next.

40 COMMENTS

  1. Just in case the commissioners need a little help with the term integrity:

    in·teg·ri·ty
    inˈteɡrədē/Submit
    noun
    1.
    the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
    “he is known to be a man of integrity”
    synonyms: honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness
    “I never doubted his integrity”

     
  2. “We never took minutes”, the current minutes are inaccurate, so let’s get rid of the minutes is how I see this going. Get a stenographer.

     
  3. Beaver County needs all new Commissioners, all new Clerks and all new IT people. Get rid of everybody. This is all another razzle dazzle show and nobody knows nuttin.

     
  4. The most shocking revelations came from Sleeper:
    “We never took minutes,” Amadio responded… Right, because records of things make it so much more difficult to do things that are corrupt (or “business as usual” as he usually calls it).

    “It doesn’t make any sense. That’s the question.”…..No, that’s a statement. I would hope that a retired teacher knows the difference between a statement and a question. No wonder standardized test scores suck these days; they are being taught by people like this.

    “It’s not her fault at all, it’s somebody with the knowledge was able to get into that file and alter it,” responded Amadio…..coming from a guy that consistently claims not to know anything, he’s SURE of this. That’s a red flag that even a blind bull could see on a moonless night.

    Commissioner Tony Amadio repeatedly stated his concern about the minutes being altered and expressed unease at the prospect of now being asked to vote on nearly a year’s worth of them. “My problem here is the minutes are the minutes, they keep changing.”….. There it is; plausable deniability for everything that’s happened this year because he’ll claim that the minutes he voted for must have been changed.

    Tony, BC residents want commissioners who solve problems, not use problems as an excuse for the county’s shortcomings.

     
  5. Shall we assume that after the last solicitor was fired and it was made known that even decisions dealing with firing employees must be made at a public meeting that the meeting between the legal, IT, HR departments and the commissioners will be open to the public?

     
  6. “It’s not her fault at all, it’s somebody with the knowledge was able to get into that file and alter it,” responded Amadio…..

    Well when they find that person, they better keep him or her because that’s the best county employee there is. Somebody with knowledge.

     
  7. No ones to blame -Nothing is wrong- were not thieves- were not incompetent – We don’t need to keep accurate records You can trust us…………….

     
    • Nice observation Mr Taxpayer! Your comment forced Mungo to have a second look at the pitiful looking group and what do you know?!? Mrs. Cook is also sporting some serious professional kicks…..ugh…em….well ok flip flops! Who the hell wants to see nasty toenails , dried up callously flaky skin to go with the overall junior high classroom classy character thing going on?

      Please people Please get out and vote, and If you voted for Hillary and you’re still butthurt simply get over it….Evil lost that day and the Right prevailed, but don’t let that make you jaded about voting local politics!

      God Speed and go Stiller’s

       
  8. Perhaps we need JP taking the official notes (minutes), or have the Chief County Clerk clear her notes (minutes) with JP before they are officially published.

     
  9. “I think we have created a problem for ourselves and quite frankly I don’t know how I am going to vote for 40 sets of minutes in one motion,” said Amadio. “God only knows what’s in there […] I don’t know what’s in what set of minutes now. The ones I have didn’t have that ‘correction’ in there.”

    I have a suggestion. How about you fucking read the minutes Tony? Then you’ll know exactly what is in there. You are a constant embarrassment to the teaching profession. Every good teacher in Beaver Valley should punch you square in the balls.

     
  10. QUESTION: I have noticed some discrepancies regarding the comments made at the last meeting and what is on the official record….

    Sandie: We commented about things at the last meeting?
    Jimmy: We keep an official record of what was said?
    Tony A. : Did I say what I should have said? If not, can we change that now?
    Tony G. : Can we add a comment where my department should get more money?
    Connie: If we can get 4 more people in my department, then I would then only need one more to
    have them take the minutes to your meetings!
    David L. : We should have a consultant come in and see if this is legal or not. Beats the hell out of me.
    David R. : Any more doughnuts?????

     
  11. JP should go ahead with his right to know request for the meta data. Honestly, just restrict the ability to edit the minutes to the head clerk. Everyone else necessary can have read capabilities. Who’s running that IT department?? Bunch of bozos.

     
  12. Anyone who has ever belonged to any organization knows that minutes are taken of every meeting, then approved at the beginning of the next meeting. If Mr. Amadio actually reads the year’s worth he might actually learn what is going on, and not just do as he is told. He is an insult to the hard-working voters of Beaver County. What has he ever done to improve this county? His arrogance and stupidity are disturbing.

     
  13. Wait. Your going to allow a network team who never realized that forensically meta data can lead to who made the changes, and then comes back and agrees it’s possible to do the work? It would behoove the county if none of the commissioners truly knew who or why the minutes were changed to hire a computer forensic expert to do the investigation. And technology exists that would monitor and alert to the chain of custody of the minutes. So if any changes are made it will alert to who made those changes. And it would alert when those changes are made. In fact, they could have protected the data to the point that only changes can be made by AUTHORIZED personnel. And those changes would be logged.

     
    • All county computers should have keyboard recorders installed on them so that everything can be reviewed at any time. Bet they would find some shopping websites and who knows what else. Wonder what sites Dean Michael visited on his computer.

       
    • Look, if you have to bring in a forensic expert to figure out who altered county records, then do it in two steps.
      1. Contract with the expert
      2. Fire the entire network team

      How do you go in anonymously and change county records? No hard copy? No backup? No limitation of access? Apparently no need for a network team then, just do what you want to do on there and everyone keep their own fluid version of records.

       
  14. Those meetings should be video taped and stored. That way there is no question. Video does not lie.

     
  15. Vote on accepting the minutes… Vote “no I do not accept the minutes” . Investigate… do it honestly or get someone to just sweep it under the rug. Remember you are voting on the results of the next election.

     
  16. I have no where near the expertise JP has in computer work, though perhaps I know more than the average person. The absolute first thing I thought of was the meta data. So how on earth could supposedly ‘Professional’ IT people be unaware of this? Are these the people that couldn’t hack being Sheriff Deputies?

     
  17. This makes things very clear duplicity treachery greed All three BC commissioners wear different hats but dance the same dance. Don’t forget last sheriffs election George David– Tony Guy —- DONT GET PLAYED.

     

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