Review of costs to restore courthouse computer networks after September 2016 shutdown shows hefty pricetag while FBI investigation remains obscured.
The shutdown of information technology networks within the Camden County Courthouse appears to have taxed county coffers nearly $100,000, if not more, as of today — the anniversary of the shutdown that paralyzed county offices for several weeks.
Two IT service companies helped restore networks following the seizure of servers by the FBI on Sept. 19, 2016, as part of an investigation of an alleged security breach. The county’s in-house IT department was terminated following the breach and shutdown of all networks.
A Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI in August 2017 confirmed that the case is still considered open, but the investigative file is not being released. This is the second time since September that the Lake Sun has attempted to obtain the file through an FOIA request.
An open records request for invoices and purchase orders from and for all IT contractors between January 2016 and April 28, 2017, and a second request for any and all invoices and purchase orders for IT hardware and software for all county departments between January 2016 and July 18, 2017 — to make sure we hadn’t missed anything — showed significantly more billing than $100,000 as there were costs both related to both the restoration of services and routine IT maintenance and service. The extraneous billing outside the restoration of networks occurred both before and after the shutdown, despite the county having an in-house IT department prior to September 2016.
A tally compiled by the Lake Sun that excluded IT work that appeared to be on routine issues and other items unrelated to the crisis totaled approximately $96,467, based on the second set of records and using descriptions from the invoices to determine what category each section of each bill belonged in.
A few more records were obtained in the second request, but the first set of records yielded a total cost that was fairly close to the same amount.
By this summer, much of the restoration work appeared to have been accomplished according to both the billing and from the obvious — that phones, e-mail, website and other network tasks had been restored to a functioning, if not necessarily ideal, status.
Approximately $23,405 of the total appeared to be attributable to RVC Data & Recovery of Camdenton, while Huber & Associates of Jefferson City billed about $73,062, based on the second set of records.
Invoices from RVC appeared to include three invoices for $5,000 each plus a prorated amount in September for $3,666.63. It should be noted that these records had some redaction and a couple of invoices did not have matching purchase orders from the commission, making it difficult to determine if it was two bills for the same amount or two completely separate bills. We ultimately counted them as two separate bills as one was marked Invoice #2 and one was marked Invoice #3.
The funds paid out to RVC were lump sum payments as part of a contract for service as well as specified items, or parts, to get the system back online - which accounted for another $4,738.
While the invoice for approximately $4,738 from RVC covered several items for the network system, Lake Sun reporting from a county commission meeting Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, included commission approval of $51,000 and $6,000 for additional hardware to resolve network issues in the aftermath of the shutdown. Those expenditures did not appear in any of the IT billing statements received by the Lake Sun. County commission minutes from the last half of 2016 are not available online to double check this figure, though minutes for 2017 up until Aug. 30 have been posted.
In the midst of RVC’s work on behalf of the county, Huber was also brought in to help bring systems back up more quickly.
A confrontation in November 2016 between RVC workers and Huber over access to certain parts of the network system led to the termination of the contract with RVC.
Huber continued to work on county networks with its role expanding despite operating without a contractual agreement with the Camden County Commission. Instead, service was provided as-needed on an hourly basis of $150 per hour. Travel time from Jefferson City was charged at a reduced rate of $75 per hour.
A portion of the amount paid to Huber was also for hardware, or parts, for restoration and upgrades to make the networks function properly. Hardware costs, as opposed to labor costs, were less apparent in Huber billing.
One invoice from Huber from Dec. 16, 2016, clearly shows a bill of $30,291.20 for switches and firewall infrastructure.
Previous attempts by the Lake Sun to obtain a precise and accurate total cost for the restoration of networks from Camden County commissioners have gone unanswered, leading to the records request.
It should be noted that this attempt to bring some clarity to the cost of the county’s IT shutdown and restoration only attempts to account for clearly defined costs to the county and not intangibles such as lost time on projects for the county and inconveniences and costs to people and businesses who may have needed records or applications for projects.
Previous reporting by Lake Sun reporter Cody Mroczka contributed to this story.