No criminal charges for Midd-West acting super

 

ALERT PIC

 

MIDDLEBURG – A criminal investigation is now complete regarding acting Superintendent Daphne Snook of the Midd-West School District and no criminal charges will be filed.  Snyder County District Attorney Mike Piecuch says after reviewing the results of the investigation, he concluded that there is insufficient evidence to warrant the filing of charges against Snook.

 

In April, School Board President Victor Abate contacted the D.A.’s office to report a breach of the school district’s email system by Snook.  Piecuch says the investigation by the Middleburg Police Department determined that for months, Snook monitored email communications amongst other users of the district’s email system, including administrators, teachers and school board members.

 

Piecuch said the district’s written policy on acceptable computer network use and internet safety provides that users may not read, execute, modify or delete any file belonging to someone else without permission.  The policy also states that users have no privacy expectation in their e-mail messages and the district may intercept or access stored communications at any time for any reason.

 

Piecuch said due to her having expressed interest in applying for the open superintendent position, Snook was directed by Abate to exclude herself from correspondence related to the search.  However, Piecuch said Snook still accessed emails related to the superintendent search.

Piecuch said the evidence does not warrant criminal charges, even though she did gain access to confidential information and was told not to.  He says Snook’s conduct is now a personnel issue most appropriately left to the discretion of the school board.  Piecuch’s entire statement is posted below.  (Ali Stevens)

 

No Criminal Charges to be Filed Against Midd-West Administrator

 (Middleburg, PA) — District Attorney Mike Piecuch (pronounced “pea-YET-sue”) has released the following statement regarding the investigation of a breach of the email system at the Midd-West School District:

“My office received a report in early April 2014 regarding an email breach at the Midd-West School District by its acting superintendent, Daphne Snook.  The report came from School Board President Victor Abate on behalf of the Board.  I immediately referred that report to the Middleburg Police Department for investigation.  I compliment the prompt reporting of the matter by the School Board and the expeditious investigation by the Middleburg Police Department.

That investigation is now completed.  After reviewing the results of the investigation and the relevant criminal statutes, I have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to warrant filing criminal charges.

The following is a summary of the evidence upon which this decision is based:

In early April 2014, School Board President Victor Abate contacted my office to report a breach of the School District’s email system by its acting superintendent, Daphne Snook.  The investigation by the Middleburg Police Department has determined that for months Ms. Snook pervasively monitored email communications amongst other users of the District email system, including other administrators, teachers and School Board members.

The District’s written policy on acceptable computer network use and internet safety provides that “Users may not read, execute, modify or delete any file belonging to someone else without express permission from the owner, even if the file is unprotected.”  The term “Users” is defined as “Any one person who may have access to the Midd-West School District Network.  This may include, but is not limited to, administrators, guests, School Board members, students, support staff and teachers.”

The policy also provides that “Users have no privacy expectation in their e-mail messages.  The District may intercept or access stored communications at any time for any reason.”  Thus, the policy places no limits on the type or scope of email monitoring and does not require any reporting when emails are intercepted or accessed.  The policy does not define who is authorized to intercept or access emails, although it is reasonable to conclude that the superintendent or acting superintendent, who is appointed to oversee all District operations, is authorized to do so.

Due to her having expressed interest in applying for the open superintendent position, Ms. Snook was directed to exclude herself from any discussions or correspondence related to the search for a new superintendent.  This directive was given by Mr. Abate on behalf of the School Board via an email sent in late January 2014.  Nonetheless, Ms. Snook accessed District emails related to the search for a new superintendent subsequent to receiving this directive.  The discovery of her monitoring caused the School Board to change the methods by it was conducting its new superintendent search in order to ensure confidentiality.  In addition, Ms. Snook was suspended pending further action by the School Board for her conduct.

Having reviewed Pennsylvania’s computer-related crimes and also the state Ethics Act, I have concluded that the evidence does not warrant criminal charges.  Although she did gain access to confidential information, there is no evidence of any personal gain, alteration of data or other criminal intent in Ms. Snook’s conduct.

Whether or not Ms. Snook’s conduct deserves further administrative action is a personnel issue most appropriately left to the discretion of the School Board.  A decision on her continued employment at Midd-West School District is the Board’s and the Board’s alone.

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