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Computers of county officials taken

Was the weekend heist of laptops and other equipment an inside job? It's too early to say.

By DAVID DECAMP
Published April 18, 2007


NEW PORT RICHEY - The list of victims reads like a who's who of Pasco County.

County Administrator John Gallagher. Budget director Mike Nurrenbrock. Development director Cindy Jolly. County Attorney Robert Sumner, and chief deputy county attorney Barbara Wilhite.

On Monday, they came to work and to discover thieves heisted their laptop computers, two projectors and a digital camera.

But Watergate, this does not appear.

"More than likely, they were targeting the equipment," Pasco Sheriff's Office spokesman Doug Tobin said Tuesday.

Not that they took the Grade A stuff.

One laptop did not work. At least four of the 10 laptops were headed for the surplus dust bin. And pricier laptops were left alone.

"This is kind of unusual," Gallagher said. "Real brand new computers, they left behind."

Nurrenbrock, who oversees the county's technology, said nothing confidential should be on the stolen computers. Private information is kept on servers, he said, while most of the information on the laptops can be found in public records.

He said it's possible the laptops could have contained archived e-mails, but said "even that's pretty remote."

With no sign of a forced entry at the West Pasco Government Center, the thieves managed to steal $22,870 worth of items - all a parking lot away from the West Pasco headquarters of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Authorities are still investigating why and how it happened, because county officials reported all doors were locked.

After learning several laptops were gone Monday, Nurrenbrock said he ventured into Gallagher's office before 9 a.m. to tell him. Gallagher pointed to the space where his computer normally sits.

"Where's my laptop?"

"That's not funny," Nurrenbrock replied.

"No, it's missing," Gallagher said.

"Okay," Nurrenbrock said.

One by one, similar reports came in from other offices. Assistant county attorney David Goldstein's personal computer was gone. So was central permitting director Ralph Peterson's laptop and case.

"Nothing else in Peterson's office is missing. Nothing else in his office was disturbed," a sheriff's report said.

Although the villains' easy access is telling, Tobin said it's too early to say the heist was an inside job. Gallagher said investigators are checking who punched the security keypad to enter the building over the weekend.

Nurrenbrock questioned how selective the thieves were, too.

Computers do not have their users' names on them, he said, and the carrying cases don't, either. Three laptops were snaked from conference rooms.

The offices of Gallagher, Nurrenbrock and the attorneys are in a suite on the third floor. The development and permitting offices are on the second. Nurrenbrock said Tuesday that some office doors inside suites require different keys.

But just to be safe, he said, the door locks were changed.

David DeCamp can be reached at (727) 869-6232 or ddecamp@sptimes.com