By Rachel Woolworth
A Lake County Sheriff’s Office seal and no trespassing sign currently adorn the door of the Lake County Courthouse’s computer server room. “Access to this room by anyone not explicitly authorized by Sheriff Amy Reyes is illegal and will result in arrest,” the sign reads.
The room contains LCSO and Board of County Commissioners servers, as well IT equipment for the other county departments that work out of the building.
The no trespassing sign and the locked door, to which Reyes holds the key, are the latest chapter in a turbulent relationship between the sheriff and the BOCC.
The relationship began to publicly unravel in September when Reyes accused the BOCC of improperly accessing her office’s emails.
Reyes claimed that the BOCC asked former IT Director Johnny Aird to grant the board global access to the email inboxes of former dispatchers Nicole Garner, Maria Chavez and Chelsa Parons. The women are currently suing the BOCC and LCSO for unlawful sex discrimination.
Aird allegedly granted the BOCC access to the emails after the board threatened his job. The commissioners fired Aird on Sept. 13, a few days before Reyes brought her allegations to the public.
The BOCC denied, and still denies, all of Reyes’ claims.
Reyes then hired Aird as LCSO IT director, a full-time position, at his previous county salary. As an elected official, Reyes has the authority to hire whomever she wishes.
Aird’s former assistant, Amit Shkop, still works for the county. Sheriff’s office aside, Shkop now provides IT support to the county’s many departments with the help of Platte River Networks, a Denver-based IT firm.
LCSO and the BOCC still share a server room, two months after the email saga. Aird moved LCSO’s servers from a closet in the sheriff’s office to the courthouse server room last spring due to space and heat issues.
Reyes believes that physical access is the number one security issue for her office’s IT network. She claims that LCSO IT equipment has been tampered with and that Shkop, who has not been vetted by Colorado Bureau of Investigation as required by the state, should not have unsupervised access to law enforcement servers.
So, a few weeks ago, Reyes decided to lock and post the no trespassing sign to the server room’s door. Reyes and Aird now have physical administrative access over the entire network.
“This is not out of retaliation,” Reyes said. “If we don’t retain certain securities then we can loose our access to important databases.”
Reyes’ control of the server room impacts the BOCC, and the rest of the courthouse, in several ways.
For one, Shkop is locked out of a room that contains much of the infrastructure he is expected to maintain. Reyes said that she would allow Shkop supervised access if asked. He hasn’t.
Another factor is that Aird, an individual previously terminated by the commissioners, now has unsupervised access to a room of BOCC IT assets.
“That’s unheard of anywhere in government or private business,” Shkop said. “It’s just wrong.”
Shkop and the BOCC discussed separating LCSO’s IT from the rest of the courthouse at a budget meeting last week. The BOCC supported the idea, saying it seemed like the only option.
Aird sad that it would be impossible to physically separate the two IT systems, that the physical infrastructure is too intertwined. According to Commissioner Kayla Marcella, Platte River Networks disagrees.
To make matters more confusing, Reyes went to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, Assessor’s Office and Treasurer’s Office to see if they would consider contracting with LCSO for IT needs in 2020.
Clerk Patty Berger said she is interested in partnering with Aird next year because she feels more comfortable having Aird work on election IT than a third party she doesn’t know.
“There is a level of trust I have with him,” Berger said.
Assessor Miguel Martinez said it’s not about people but about maintaining access to a room that holds the office’s servers and appraisal software.
“I don’t understand how the BOCC does not control the assets and facilities they were elected to manage,” Martinez said.
“Those elected officials would need to figure out how to make it work within their budgets,” Marcella said of the potential for IT partnerships with LCSO.
The BOCC and LCSO are currently undergoing mediation with Thomas Moorhead of the Judicial Arbiter Group. The mediation was organized by Lake County Judge Jonathan Shamis.
“I’m looking at this as ground zero to rebuild our relationship,” Marcella said.
The BOCC and LCSO both met with Moorhead separately. Both parties were convene with Moorhead later in an attempt to air their differences and move forward.
“Until that trust is resolved I don’t think there is a way forward,” Martinez said.