By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Scott Bauer filed a notice of tort claim Dec. 28 against Bonner County, alleging “malicious defamation” by Commissioners Dan McDonald and Jeff Connolly — as well as Chief Information Officer Brad Ptashkin — who Bauer stated spread claims that he illegally hacked into commissioner email accounts with county computers.
Asked for more information on the claim, Bauer did not comment in detail, but confirmed to the Reader that he’d filed the notice with the county on Dec. 28 and identified County Clerk Mike Rosedale as the “custodian of the complaint.”
A notice of tort claim does not constitute a lawsuit, but rather a communication to a public agency providing information that there may be grounds for one. Bauer listed a $3 million claim of damages in his notice, citing “gross negligence and reckless infliction of emotional harm” and “loss of future financial support” and “emotional support,” among other damages stemming from the defendants’ “intentional and malicious defamations.”
Those instances of defamation — or in some cases, “libel with malice” — are listed in the six-page notice, allegedly occurring in the BOCC board room, “an evening barbecue,” in Rosedale’s office, in email conversations and at a Christmas party. According to Bauer’s account, these incidents began in May and persisted into December 2021.
The nature of the defamatory or libelous remarks pertain to claims that Bauer was “a hacker,” or had used a county computer — namely, that of Veronica Dixon, a deputy clerk and wife of District 1 Rep. Sage Dixon — to access the commissioners’ email accounts and “scrape their passwords.”
Bauer believes these allegations against him are “retaliation” for “unwanted legal advice” — that is, advice he gave the commissioners in the spring regarding possible violations of constitutional officer custodial rights. As constitutional officers, elected county officials are responsible for who “accesses, views, edits, releases and secures their records,” according to a statement from the Bonner County prosecutor’s office.
“Records should be siloed and only integrated where proper checks-and-balances ensure that all custodial duties are satisfied when it comes to shared IT resources,” the statement continued.
Though it is has not been specified exactly what possible violations Bauer may have been bringing to the board’s attention regarding custodial rights, the prosecutor’s office stated for example that, “If a CCO fails to adequately custody his/her custodial records it could lead to the destruction, tampering, unauthorized access and/or failure of integrity (corruption) of those public records.”
According to Bauer’s notice of tort claim, his “unwanted legal advice” on potential CCO custodial rights violations served to impose “unwanted IT checks and balances on McDonald and Ptashkin and they resisted this advice to the point of mounting a defamation campaign against me.”
This alleged “defamation campaign” was meant to “prevent me from working for Bonner County and to prevent me from securing future employment outside of Bonner County,” Bauer stated. Also according to Bauer, he received notice Dec. 21 that he’d been dismissed from advising the board “due to trust issues.”
Connolly declined to comment when reached via email Jan. 4, and Ptashkin could not be reached before press time.
McDonald did respond, writing in an email: “At this point these are allegations that have not been proven and since there will be a pending investigation, I’m not at liberty to say much more than that.”
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