High-Tech Probe Targeted Woman Who ‘Knew Too Much’

first_imgOcean City High SchoolA report from the Ocean City School District on Christine Lentz describes an investigation that started when a fellow member of her labor contract negotiating team reported that she seemed to “know too much,” continued with a forensics analysis of the computers of 11 different school district staff members and ended with the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office taking over and ultimately arresting Lentz.The report shows just one side of a case in which Lentz, a former vice principal and athletic director at Ocean City High School, is accused of official misconduct and computer criminal activity. It also provides the school district’s account of events in a potential lawsuit against the district from Lentz, who filed a notice of tort claim in September.The notice includes Lentz’s account of events (see “Arrested Administrator Threatens to Sue Ocean City Schools“), but she could not be reached for direct comment on the report.The report comes in the form of a letter to the state Board of Examiners (which oversees educator licensing in New Jersey).Chris Lentz, former vice principal and athletic director at Ocean City High School, was arrested Aug. 4 on charges of official misconduct and computer criminal activity.“State law requires that this office make a final disposition on this incident,” Carl H. Carabelli, manager of the Criminal History Review Unit for the state Department of Education, wrote in an Aug. 5 letter to Ocean City Superintendent Kathleen Taylor. “To comply with that provision, the employing district/contractor must notify the Criminal History Review Unit, in writing, of the action you have taken pending the final resolution of this matter by the court.”“You are further reminded that, if the pending charge results in a conviction, this individual will be permanently disqualified from school employment,” Carabelli said, not knowing at the time that Lentz had resigned effective July 1.An Aug. 11 letter from Ocean City School District employment attorney Mark G. Toscano informs Carabelli that Lentz had submitted her notice of retirement on June 30, effective July 1, and accepted by Ocean City Board of Education on July 9.An Oct. 23 letter from Taylor to the state Board of Examiners provides the full detail required by the state. The letter includes allegations that have been unchallenged in a court of law. Lentz’s attorney, Brian Pelloni, has not responded to calls for comment.The letter is excerpted here:“Please be advised that as the Superintendent for the Board, on whose behalf l am writing in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:9B-4.4(a), I am advising the State Board of Examiners of the following circumstances involving Dr. Christine Lentz, who until July 1 , 2015 was employed by the Board as its Athletic Director and High School Assistant Principal. As set forth in more detail below, Dr. Lentz resigned her tenured employment after being confronted with allegations of conduct unbecoming an employee related, among other allegations, to unauthorized access of the District’s computer systems, and is also currently facing criminal charges related to same.”“By way of background, in the spring of 2015 the Board commenced negotiations with the Ocean City Administrators Association (“OCAA”) for a successor agreement since the current agreement was scheduled to expire on June 30, 2015. Dr. Lentz was a member of the OCAA’s Negotiations Committee, and may have also been serving as an officer for the OCAA during the 2015-2016 school year.”“In early May 2015, the lead representative for the OCAA during collective negotiations, Mr. Howard Mednick of the New Jersey Principals’ and Supervisors Association (NJPSA), raised concerns to the Board’s labor counsel that the OCAA Negotiations Committee, and in particular Dr. Lentz, seemed to ‘know too much’ and was aware of information that she should not have been.”“After learning of Mr. Mednick’s comments and concerns, and after conducting a preliminary investigation into the possible cause of confidential information being known to the OCAA Negotiations Committee, the Board decided to retain the services of an outside computer forensic investigative firm. That investigation discovered, among other concerns, that my previously missing iPad had been connected to and accessed from the computer that was located in Dr. Lentz’s office in Ocean City High School. The investigation further found that on the date and that my iPad was accessed and connected to Dr. Lentz’s computer, Dr. Lentz was logged onto her computer and sending emails of a professional and personal manner. Of particular note was the fact that the investigation found that my Board email account had been accessed on several occasions and from different IP addresses, without my permission, authority or knowledge from my missing iPad. The investigation also found that several other non-certificated employees had also acted in an improper manner by accessing files that they were not otherwise authorized to review.”“Upon learning of these findings, the Board’s Labor Counsel was requested and authorized to conduct an employment  investigation, as well as to report the preliminary findings to the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office in light of the potential criminal conduct. With the permission of the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, a number of Board employees were interviewed on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Those interviews revealed additional details and allegations of further misconduct allegedly committed by and  attributed to Dr. Lentz. At the conclusion of those interviews, Dr. Lentz was placed on Administrative Leave with pay pending further investigation and consideration of possible tenure charges for conduct unbecoming.”“On Friday, June 26, 2015, Dr. Lentz was interviewed by the Board’s labor counsel in the presence of legal counsel provided to her by NJPSA (New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association), specifically Mr. Wayne Oppito, Esquire. During that interview, Dr. Lentz was informed of the preliminary findings from the forensic investigation, the additional allegations of misconduct that came out of the interviews with other staff and informed that Tenure Charges may be filed against her as a result. Dr. Lentz was informed that if she wished to avoid the filing of those charges and proceedings, she would have to irrevocably resign her employment with the Board by the close of business on Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Dr. Lentz was also informed that regardless of whether she resigned or elected to contest the Tenure Charges, the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office could still elect to pursue criminal charges against her, and that I would still be required to report this matter and her resignation to the Board of Examiners.”“Dr. Lentz ultimately elected to resign from her tenured employment position with the Board effective July 1, 201 5 and to pursue retirement, which the Board publicly accepted at is meeting on July 9, 2015. However, in August 2015, Lentz attempted to rescind her resignation and resume her employment with the Board. Since the Board had already accepted Dr. Lentz’s resignation and acted to locate and retain a replacement, the Board declined her request to be reinstated. As of the date of this letter, no appeal or other challenge has been filed in connection with the Board’s action to accept her resignation and deny her request to be reinstated.”“Ultimately, the Cape May Prosecutor’s Office decided to file criminal charges against Dr. Lentz. Specifically, Dr, Lentz was charged and arrested for official misconduct and computer criminal activity. Those charges are currently still pending and according to the Assistant Prosecutor that is handling the matter, may be proceeding to the Grand Jury in the near future.”“The Board and its administration are cognizant of their responsibility to provide information and cooperate in this matter.”The letter includes, as an attachment, details of a forensics investigation from DFDR Consulting of Malvern, Pa.The forensics analysis, if accurate, provides a chilling view of the detailed footprints all computer users leave behind.The investigation began on the afternoon of Friday, May 29, with DFDR consultants preserving “forensic images” of Dell computers and other computer-related equipment associated with the 11 “individuals/custodians in question.”The probe preserved information from 13 USB/flash drives connected to Lentz’s computer, under her monitor and in her drawers.As the investigation expanded, two additional “collections/preservations” were conducted by DFDR on June 24.The investigation document suggests that the consulting firm was able to identify where Taylor’s iPad was synced during the time it was missing from her office, which computers her email was accessed from, which employees had read or copied email attachments (about eight documents related to negotiations seemed to be of particular interest) and even which employees had performed Google searches for things like “can internet history be traced after deleted.”DFDR contacted the Prosecutor’s Office as part of its investigation.“Since DFDR did not have direct knowledge of locations where custodians would normally access O365 (the school’s Microsoft email system) from, where they visited and where they live, the logs were turned over to Detective Bryan Hamilton of the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office,” DFDR writes in its analysis. “From there, they were to focus their attention on correlation of the information.”The company’s analysis lists all connections of protected emails and documents to employees, including Lentz. The names of all current employees were redacted in the document provided to OCNJ Daily.last_img read more