Kiona-Benton City School District servers probed

Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 28, 2014 

Authorities are looking through recovered email and other digital records from the Kiona-Benton City School District for the motive behind vandalism that destroyed the district's servers.

Investigators with the Benton County Sheriff's Office recently searched the district's former administrative offices, where the servers were housed, and took away a DVD-R and a USB drive, according to court documents.

The sheriff's office declined comment on the search and the case, saying detectives are still investigating.

Court documents show authorities were specifically looking for emails written, sent and received using district accounts in the days leading up to the break-in.

"A probability exists in which the destruction of an email or file was the motive of the burglary and damage to the computer server system," the documents said. "It is believed that information recovered from the computer server system will provide an insight as to the motivation of an individual or group responsible for the burglary and extensive damage to the property."

Interim Superintendent Wade Haun said he could not comment on the search or on the sheriff's investigation.

Deputies were called to the district's former administrative offices on Grace Avenue, which were also being used for classroom space, just before 6 a.m. on Oct. 28.

They found damage estimated at $120,000 to computer equipment in the building, particularly to locked computer servers and what was thought to be telephone wires that "caused the email system and shared files to be unrecoverable with simple recovery techniques," court documents said.

Some minor damage was done to computer monitors and a keyboard in an adjacent office, but "it is believed that the target of the burglary was the computers or computer server equipment or information stored within."

The documents do not list any suspects. No other physical evidence -- such as fingerprints, surveillance video or key code access records -- has been discovered.

District officials did not believe until recently that the email archive could be recovered. Technology director Troy Jamieson announced during the school board's Feb. 11 meeting that some new pieces of hardware and software would allow him to access the files. That was 11/2 weeks before the sheriff's office went in and obtained copies of the files.

This is the third criminal investigation to take place within the district in a year.

Former transportation and maintenance manager Mark Noyes was accused in spring 2013 of stealing district property and selling it through online auction site eBay. He pleaded guilty Thursday to third-degree theft. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and two years of community supervision. He owes the district $500 in restitution.

Sarah Haywood, a former lunchroom cashier, was charged with third-degree theft last fall for allegedly stealing from the till while employed by the district in 2012. She pleaded guilty in January and received a deferred jail sentence. She owes the district $100 in restitution.

Other upheavals have included Superintendent Rom Castilleja resigning in late January a week after the district learned it would have to pay back almost $169,000 to the state because of misreported enrollment numbers. Castilleja will be paid through the end of the school year and receive more than $10,000 in paid-out vacation time.

Four people have rotated into three seats on the five-member school board since elections in November. Haun, one of the board members elected in November, resigned his seat and was appointed interim superintendent.

A Benton County District Court judge recently rejected a request for an anti-harassment order against school board President Tim Cook from Kiona-Benton City High School's girl's wrestling coach, Holly Johnson.

High school Principal Wayne Barrett was placed on paid administrative leave recently, though district officials won't give the reason for his removal. Haun said Barrett's leave is not related to the sheriff's investigation.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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