Missing hard drive found

LISBON – The office computer that belonged to former Columbiana County Treasurer Nick Barborak has been found in a storage room where broken and outdated computer equipment is kept.

County Auditor Nancy Milliken showed up at Wednesday’s board of county commissioners meeting to report she found the computer after launching her own search in response to newspaper stories about its whereabouts.

The computer has become part of the ongoing story about bookkeeping problems with a $5 million investment account in the treasurer’s office. The story became public last month when new Treasurer Linda Bolon reported inheriting the problem, which resulted in county income being overstated by $118,770. During the course of correcting the problem, Bolon also discovered several illegal investments were made.

Bolon was elected treasurer last year in place of Barborak, who opted to run for state representative and then won, taking office Jan. 1. Both are Democrats.

Because of the news stories on the investment problems, the county Republican Party chairman, David Johnson, filed a public records request with Bolon seeking, among other things, emails between Bolon and Barborak and with the state auditor’s office.

Bolon was unable to comply completely with the request because Barborak’s desktop computer in the treasurer’s office crashed in mid 2012 and he was unable to retrieve the information on the hard drive. The computer was replaced with a new one.

The newspaper reported the county’s IT worker said that after he was unable to resurrect the hard drive, it was given to a company by the name of Phoenix, which was also unsuccessful. Neither the IT worker, Bolon nor Barborak knew what became of the old computer and hard drive.

Milliken, a Republican, told commissioners she contracts with Phoenix, a computer service company, and its field worker, Dan Groffas, told her they were upset about being linked to the investment controversy. She said Groffas told her he happened to be in the courthouse when Barborak’s computer crashed and was asked to take a look.

“He did not take it with him. He looked at it here” and was unable to get the computer working, Milliken said.

At this point, Milliken decided to search for the computer herself, and one of her first stops was the room where broken and outdated county computers are stored before being auctioned. It was there Milliken believes she found Barborak’s computer, with its hard drive intact.

Milliken said she contacted the state auditor’s office and was told to place the hard drive in a secure location for the time being. State examiners are currently conducting a routine audit of the county’s 2012 books and are taking a specific look at the investment problem.

“We appreciate your diligence in tracking this down. I know there were some people upset about being dragged into this,” said Commission Chairman Mike Halleck.

Since there is still an outstanding public records request involving the computer, Commissioner Tim Weigle suggested they attempt to retrieve the information from the hard drive to satisfy the request.

Commissioner Jim Hoppel agreed. “We should do our due diligence to find out what’s on there,” he said.

While Halleck said that was a good idea, he was worried the county may have to spend a significant amount of money to retrieve the information, at which point they will have to decide whether it is worth it or not. He wondered whether the state auditor’s office might be able to do it for them.

“I think you have to be somewhat pragmatic. We know what the problem is … and I’m not sure what else there is to know about” the investment problem, he said.

Commissioners, all of whom are Republicans, then voted to have Milliken research whether the hard drive can be saved and for how much. She was advised to let them know the cost before they decide whether to proceed since the money would likely have to come from them.