Pierce Township Board of Trustees sues former member

January 31st, 2008    Author: Michael Bradley    Filed Under: News

A federal lawsuit against former Pierce Township Trustee Curt Carl Hartman, alleging that he destroyed public records by deleting them from a laptop computer owned by the township, has been filed by the board of trustees.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Cincinnati’s U.S. District Court Jan. 14, accuses former trustee Hartman, who served the township from Jan. 1998 – Dec. 2005, of “intentionally deleting and destroying all data and software files” before returning the computer to the board of trustees.

According to the lawsuit, Hartman, a lawyer by profession, utilized the laptop computer while in office to correspond electronically with other township officials and to create records of the minutes of trustee meetings.

The suit states that it is unknown how many records were destroyed, but deleting computer records is a violation of state law and a violation of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; anyone who destroys public records can be held liable for $1,000 a page, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also says that Pierce Township has spent more than $5,000 investigating the allegations against Hartman, including hiring an outside party to assess the damage and restore the software.

Hartman, who in November ran for Clermont County Municipal Judge (but was defeated by former Assistant Prosecutor Tony Brock), has said publicly that he has filed several of his own lawsuits, on his own behalf or for other clients, against Pierce Township since leaving office in Dec. 2005.

In the most recent suit filed on behalf of a John Doe Jan. 18, it is alleged that Pierce Township Police Chief James Smith did not comply with state law in turning over police incident reports after receiving a public records request; Smith said that he was complying with orders form authorities representing Clermont County Juvenile Court.

Chief Smith, not willing to comment on the John Doe accusations, would only say that he, in cooperation with the Ohio Attorney General's Office, has been investigating allegations against Hartman that, while a township trustee, he altered public documents off the computer of township fiscal officer Karen Register.

The township's suit against Hartman alleges that as a result of deleting files and data from the laptop computer provided to him by the township, he destroyed information germane to the investigation against him.

The Pierce Township lawsuit, which claims that Hartman is liable for "intentional interference and destruction of evidence," is seeking remuneration and punitive damages, attorney fees, and court costs - all to be determined at trial. U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith has been assigned to hear the case when it goes to trial.

Attempts to reach Hartman and the Pierce Township trustees for comment were unsuccessful.
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