Clerk: Palm Beach County defied court order in testing computers : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Clerk: Palm Beach County defied court order in testing computers

By BRAD HAHN Sun-Sentinel

Web-posted: 11:56 p.m. Feb. 22, 2000

Palm Beach County defied a court order and jeopardized the confidentiality of sensitive legal records in testing its new computer system, Clerk of Circuit Court Dorothy Wilken charged Tuesday.

County leaders quickly dismissed the claims, saying Wilken's charges are based in politics and are simply not true.

The controversy marks the latest round in a long struggle over control of the court computer system and may have to be settled in court.

"Now we have lost control of the records, and they are being used and sent anywhere -- this is extremely frustrating," Wilken said at a news conference. "What really hurts is to find out we were right."

Wilken insists state law holds her office responsible for all court records. With that charge should come control of the court computers, she argues.

Instead, the county's data processing department maintains the system and is handling a computer upgrade of legal records set to take effect in May.

Wilken on Tuesday accused the county department of using legal files to test the new system without pulling records ordered sealed by the court. Some of the records, possibly more than 100,000 files, were accessible to employees of an out-of-state software vendor, creating a breach in security, she added.

County administrators said the charges are greatly exaggerated at best. No unauthorized employees of the county or the Kentucky-based software firm ever had access to the records, they say. At most, one of the vendor's management employees, bound by a confidentiality agreement, may have had access to certain records to test the new system, according to the county.

Palm Beach County Administrator Bob Weisman questioned Wilken's motives.

"It's just not an issue. There's not a problem here," he said. "I just think it's part of the overall effort to cast aspersions to gain control."

Wilken and Chief Judge Walter N. Colbath have sparred over control of the computers for more than two years.

Gov. Jeb Bush last month ordered an investigation into whether there was an attempt to work out behind-the-scenes deals for support of Wilken's case from Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer and Public Defender Richard Jorandby. Miami-Dade County Assistant State Attorney Jani Singer has not finished that investigation.

Steve Bordelon, director of the county's data processing department, said his office was blindsided by the charges. He said he would have a complete response today.

"This is another case of her not getting her facts straight," he said. "It gives an impression that there are sensitive records out in the public domain, and that's not the case.",1136,27000000000116580,00.html

-- Carl Jenkins (, February 27, 2000

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