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Outside consultant joins Westfield City Hall computer feud

WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — A growing feud between the two top officials in this Hamilton County city has spilled outside of City Hall, with allegations of third-party software installation, removal of computers, and a possible data breach.

A newspaper picture of Westfield Mayor Andy Cook and Clerk Treasurer Cindy Gossard may be the last time the two were on the same page about anything. It’s not yet known if the feud between Cook and Gossard has interfered with the daily operation of the city, but Westfield taxpayers bearing the price for lawyers, audits and outside consultants.

Gossard is accusing the mayor’s office of raiding her office Monday night and taking all the laptops, including one that belongs to an outside computer consultant. A statement from her office says:

“At no time did I authorize or otherwise give permission to any administration employee to enter my office. This raid by the mayor’s employee into the office of a separately elected and independent City official, is highly disturbing.”

A portion of a statement from Westfield Clerk Treasurer Cindy Gossard

The statement added that she received an email from the administration admitting a mayor’s employee had entered the office and taken equipment along with the computers.  

The incident happened after this week’s City Council meeting when Gossard updated the council on her efforts to have remote-access software removed from her office computers; she calls it spyware.

The software is on all city computers, but the city government vehemently denied the use of spyware in a text sent to I-Team 8 by the mayor’s communication director: “NEVER HAS SPYWARE BEEN ON CITY COMPUTERS EVER.”

The clerk has hired a private consultant to look into the matter. He spent eight hours late one night and into the morning trying to determine what was really on the computers. The clerk did not say what if anything he found.

The city sent a statement to I-Team 8 on Friday, the last one from a lawyer hired by the mayor’s office. It said that, contrary to the clerk treasurer’s own version of events, an unknown, unsupervised person was in City Hall from about 6 p.m. July 23 to almost 4 a.m. the next day. “He was there without authorization from or knowledge of the city administration or the city’s information technology department,” the statement said.

The statement also said the person could have had access to sensitive city documents including bank records and employee information.