Mayoral aide only person on earth who can't recall getting a new computer at work

That's the position city officials are taking on releasing the news that the reason they couldn't find several thousand e-mail messages from Menino aide Michael Kineavy was not because of some "glitch" but because, as the Globe reports, they were sitting in an old computer that had been swapped out from Kineavy's desk.

That explanation also doesn't really explain the disappearance of the e-mail messages, since Boston City Hall uses a server-based mail system, which is supposed to keep copies of a person's e-mail, but, well, you can see why Michael Flaherty might just call for an independent investigation into what happened to the e-mail: "At first, they were infrequent email users. Then it was a glitch. Then it was a double delete. Today we are being told a computer was replaced days after the Globe request for emails. This appears to be a cover-up."

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    It is a cover up

    It doesn't appear to be a cover-up - it is one. The Menino Machine is getting caught up in its own lies. Time for the AG to get off the stump and do her job & investigate.

    Horrendously Patronizing Cover Up

    They assume that everybody is completely computer illiterate and stupid to boot, and therefore their keystone cop IT investigation looks genuine.

    The reality is that most people who are eligible to vote use computers in their work life and know enough to know they are either completely incompetent or completely patronizing when they expect people to accept their efforts.

    What's the over/under that Croakily is just waiting until they find some low-level IT tech who actually physically deleted the e-mails on order of his supervisors to hang high and fry for the sins of her buddies? That's her MO after all.

    Barney Frank

    By on

    Not a fan of Barney Frank's politics - but do like his comedy:

    "There’s been nothing to indicate [Kineavy] hasn’t been up front,’’ Sinnott said.

    And Congressman Frank's response would probably be "From what bubble gum machine did you get most of your law degrees?"

    (Momentary comedic aside - favorite Frank quote of all time and in the spirit of the season- trying to describe AIG's role in the credit default swap debacle - paraphrasing as best I can: "Selling credit default swaps on these stalwarts of Wall Street was like selling life insurance on vampires. They never die so it's a very profitable business. Then the vampires started dying.")

    Given that Barney Frank was

    Given that Barney Frank was instrumental in pushing banks to make loans to people who couldn't possibly pay them back, I find the humor hard to appreciate. Kind of like David Letterman making "sex with intern" joks for fifteen years.

    Server based?

    By "server based", I assume you mean that all of one's messages are kept on a network drive and not on a user's local drive. That's what I'm used to, but as a mainframer, I know nothing about network administration. ;-)

    If that's true, Menino's got some 'splainin' to do - still. They just keep digging a deeper hole.

    I think Adam's gloss on this

    By on

    I think Adam's gloss on this is a little wide of the mark. The e-mail system was indeed server based, but the double-deletions took the e-mails off the server before they got backed up. It's possible to retrieve them, anyway, when the space on the server hasn't been overwritten with new data, but that's unlikely on a heavily used server.

    Retrieving the hard-drive is something else again. The data there is much less likely to have been overwritten. And this is by far the best passage in the story:

    The Globe submitted its first request for copies of Kineavy’s e-mails on April 1. On April 6, Kineavy reported that his computer was running slowly, and after three exchanges with city computer technicians, Kineavy received his new computer on April 24. City officials said there was no link between the public records request and the computer repair job.

    This stinks to high heaven.

    the double-deletions took

    the double-deletions took the e-mails off the server before they got backed up.

    How often do the servers at City Hall get backed up? In my small office where we have NO LAWS requiring us to keep emails our server backs up at least once a day. I would say City Hall, with all that it does, should be backing those servers up more then once a day but once a day seems like the bare minimum. Even if that were the case he would of had to make sure he go to his mailbox before the system came to back everything up. I wonder if he knows when that happens because 17 messages, well I get that in about a half hour if spam is not included. Either he was covering his tracks or he has a severe disorder of OCD where he can not bare to have any emails in his Outlook even during crazy budget sessions or city crisis's that require his immediate attention.

    Deleted from server log?

    By on

    "The e-mail system was indeed server based, but the double-deletions took the e-mails off the server before they got backed up".

    Who told you this? Can you cite a reference?

    I seriously doubt city hall would set up a mail system where if an outlook client deleted an item from their own copy of their sent mail, it would go up and delete the respective items on the exchange server itself. That would be __barking mad__.

    As I said before, exactly who audits boston city hall's IT department?

    I don't know the ins and

    I don't know the ins and outs of how things are set up at Government Center, but I used to administer and Exchange server, and the description you quoted is pretty accurate. Generally speaking, the desktop never really holds the messages at all, unless you purposefully configure it that way. The data is all on the server, and Outlook just pulls and pushes between the server and the desktop whatever needs to be displayed. If you delete a message, it is indeed deleted from the server. The only way it would be preserved on the desktop would be through local archiving, or in some instances a local cache that might be used if LAN traffic is heavy.

    As for the other comment somebody made about the data not being deleted from the server's drive, that would be true if Exchange used a simple file based message store, but it does not. It's all buried in database tables that are continuously re-indexed. I don't know that you'd necessarily be able to retrieve deleted messages, especially if some time had gone by. Just the same, I have no expertise in data recovery, so I won't rule out the possibility.

    administrator privledges

    By on

    I agree that its possible to set up outlook / exchange so the user's mailbox has presence on the server. Someone changes machines, all the items are still there.

    But that's just the user's view of their mailbox. To have the puny user moreover _administer_ the database of all sent mail from the exchange server is just barking mad. Any IT audit of city hall should have picked that up years ago.

    They use Exchange and Outlook

    By on

    And one of the advantages of that setup for somebody who gets a new computer is that as soon as IT hands you the keyboard, you log into Outlook and, presto, all your messages are there. So, yes, you're right about the basic idea.

    It's possible to run Outlook as a remote user, i.e., like a POP3 client that actually downloads your messages, but why in the world would you do that on a LAN? Oh, right, we're talking about somebody who can't remember he got a new computer, even though the reason he got a new computer was because the old one was running so slow, and never mind that changing computers usually means days and days of readjusting all your settings (such as setting up the panes in your Outlook to display your e-mail just the way you like), an annoying process most people don't soon forget.

    User migration

    By on

    Both Windows and Mac (and even some flavors of Linux) have user migration tools these days that make keeping preferences like how Outlook appears and even which files you have located where the exact same as your previous computer.

    Not that a government IT department that doesn't even know how the public records laws might apply to them would assumedly know how to use a user migration tool, but they're available these days.

    Let it run its course

    By on

    Menino has worked with this investigation each step of the way. Let's let it run its course before we get swept up in becoming ameture Matlock's. The papers keep putting this up as front page news but nothing relevant has been found yet. Everyone just calm down, take a deep breath, and read your copies of The Last Hurrah.

    its a big deal

    It's a big deal that documents - the subject of a subpoena for a federal investigation, were not found at city hall when they existed at city hall.

    It a big deal that Mayoral aide Michael J. Kineavy deleted e-mail he received in the course of the day and that it was not recorded as required by law.

    Computer or Hard Drive?

    By on

    I wholeheartedly agree that the whole thing stinks to high heaven, but am I the only one who noticed that the Globe reporter doesn't seem to know that ("computer" != "hard drive") ?

    Did they give him a new computer or replace his hard drive? They found a drive on a shelf. It's still appalling that Kinneavy hid the data after the Globe's request, but he might not notice a new computer if they kept the same box with a new hard drive. On the other hand, with a new drive, he'd have to go through the Hell of getting Outlook working to his particular liking again, so he still should remember.

    Yep

    Yes, that's the question - was it hard drive or computer?

    A hard drive replacement would be easy to miss - if the IT department did it right!

    Shame the Globe reporter didn't clarify but maybe there'll be a correction / explanation forthcoming.

    Circling the wagons at City Hall

    They're all on message at City Hall, as indicated by statements in the Globe by the city's chief lawyer:

    City corporation counsel William F. Sinnott said in an interview yesterday that he had been relying on what Kineavy had told him and that Kineavy, the mayor’s chief policy aide and key political strategist, still does not remember getting a new computer.

    “There’s been nothing to indicate he hasn’t been up front,’’ Sinnott said.

    Someone whose judgment I trust told me really good things about Sinnott when he was running for office a few years ago. Now it's clear that he's become just another cog in the machinery. Very disappointing.

    This bunch has been around for too long. They're besotted by their own power.

    To be a fly on the wall at one of their

    recent "reelection/crisis management" meetings (Sinnott, Menino, Oates, Kineavy, Joyce, etc)- I can only imagine what's been going on lately in the bowels of the concrete fortress. By the way, did anybody else find it a little weird that the prospect of a $250,000 contract with the city to recover the emails elicited a rather pessimistic comment from one of StoneTurn's people to the effect of "It probably won't be worth it." Way to throw your own company under the bus, man- unless of course StoneTurn isn't really as objective as we might hope. Are they operating primarily as a computer forensics firm here or as legal consultants for Menino? From their website it looks like they do a lot of different stuff. Perhaps Galvin should hire another firm to conduct the search, if these guys are so unenthusiastic. Also, the state or the Feds might want to think about taking over management of the election, or at least closely monitoring it.

    "It probably won't be worth it."

    By on

    I read that as "Kineavy uses his city hall computer only for official business because he's well aware that his emails are "FOIA-able". Kineavy most certainly has yet another computer, email account, cell phone or other communications mechanism (perhaps even a subordinate) that he uses for anything that might be legally/politically on the margin - or over it."

    Apparently the mayor uses a personal cell phone for city business and claims that was not subject to public records laws (some legal eagles have stated that is not true - and they sound like they know what they are talking about).

    Why would Kineavy's communications be any less surreptitious?

    Sleeping with Sarah Palin

    Metaphorically at least. She of the "my hotmail account is not subject to FOIA even if I am conspiring to give public money to my friends".

    Attorney?

    By on

    Do you think that Sinnott will stop and remember that he is an officer of the court?

    Just curious

    By on

    So they're using MS Exchange for email. Professional curiosity,
    does anyone know what they're using for the backup? Netbackup,
    Legato, Commvault?

    So far....

    By on

    ...nothing of note has been found as of now. Seems at this point like a lot of people smell blood and wish to pounce. Will be interesting to see what if anything is found, but until then I have a hard time getting fired up for what has, to date, been a few emails between subordinates and a boss.

    It's the aftermath that reveals so much

    Like many other possibly minor transgressions in public life, it's the aftermath that is so revealing. People who "smell blood and wish to pounce" are easily deflated when the response is open, transparent, and apologetic, rather than defensive, petulant, and -- now -- apparently disingenuous.

    Well, duh.

    By on

    Your computer does tend to run slow when you try to erase 10+ years of e-mail messages at once. That's a lot of read/write cycles on what was likely a 5400 rpm hard drive.

    From the Globe: Platt said

    From the Globe:

    Platt said his investigators found 40,000 instances of Kineavy’s name on the older hard drive, but that the only way to determine whether those instances were e-mails was to have human beings examine each mention.

    Does this make any sense? I'm not an IT guy, but I would have assumed that rather than search for the guy's name, they'd search for the header text that goes with, and is specific to, every email. Searching for his name is like searching for hay in a haystack.

    Not excited

    By on

    I just can't imagine this having any impact on the election. To the general public it's: eh, some guy erased all his emails - shit, I erase all my emails when they back up, who keeps this crap.

    A public-records law violation - and this is one, clearly, and I'm a fanatic on public records and open meeting law violations - in my experience is met with yawns and shrugs by the public-at-large. "Oh, I get it, it's a technical violation ..." or "Well, tell them not to do it any more, then." Even, "Yeah, well, whaddaya gonna do, it's not murder."

    Unless one of these covered-up emails says, "Dianne, remember, right cup for Tom, left cup for yourself. Love, Mikey," this likely has no impact on the ongoing Meninoization of Meninoville through the Boston ReMeninoment Authority and other agencies of Menino Hall. (Sorry, I just walked through a public Meninopark and something got caught in my Meninobrain.)

    Perhaps you were in the

    Perhaps you were in the Thomas Menino wing of the Hyde Park branch library. And that's not a joke. Or at least it's real.

    So that'd be

    By on

    where they keep the books on rhetoric and elocution?

    Yeah, yeah, but sometimes cheap shots are the only ones available.

    You mean the one...

    By on

    ...where you have less than a day to read the books before they are double-deleted?

    ...where nobody knows who has outstanding borrowed books because the compliance director isn't doing her job?

    ...where you're not allowed to talk anywhere you want in the library? ...oh. Wait, that one doesn't work as well.

    Great Spin from the machine...

    By on

    There is no way getting away from this. Menino and his coat-holders have been stalling and lying the whole way through this. The AG needs to investigate. The machine may not care about deleting public records, but I sure as hell do. There is something rotten in City Hall.

    Forget the AG

    She's in on the deal. She won't investigate this because she is also a stooge of just about every other corrupt mayoral machine erasing or avoiding e-mails in the Commonwealth, including her Medford hometown.

    This is a job for the Feds I'm afraid. The AG is compromised and can't do the job.

    Coakley didn't have the resources ??

    It's not like she just opened a 3/4 million dollar cyber-crime lab in order to conduct these kinds of investigations:

    Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Tuesday the opening of the agency’s new, state-of-the-art computer forensics lab.

    The 3,000-square-foot lab, located in Boston, is part of the AG’s Cyber Crime Initiative, which was launched in 2007 and designed to bolster the state’s ability to prevent, investigate and prosecute cyber crime. The new lab will broaden the office’s forensic capabilities and enable investigators to conduct exams on a variety of digital media including computers, cell phones, laptops, PDAs and GPS systems.

    The lab cost $750,000, about $140,000 of which was paid for with grants, according to AG spokeswoman Emily LaGrassa.

    Coakley unveils new cyber-crime lab
    Boston Business Journal - by Mary Moore, Tue., Sep. 15, 2009
    link

    Nothing yet

    By on

    Let's all let this sort itself out. We all seem to forget that Menino's challenger Flaherty cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars defending a law suit against him for violating open meeting rules, an extreme offense to any believer in transparency in government. In fact McCrea v. Flaherty was the case and Flaherty cost the city a ton of money.