Let’s get to the bottom of the Department of Public Instruction’s Spygate

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Last night I published a story about allegations that the Department of Public Instruction spied on the personal text messages of former K-3 Literacy Director Carolyn Guthrie for more than 16 months after her September 2017 retirement from the department.

Screenshots of a text message between Guthrie and another retired DPI employee mysteriously appeared in Superintendent Mark Johnson’s denial of a protest of his contract award to Istation and later in a sworn affidavit by one of Johnson’s deputies.

Kathryn-Johnston-Affidavit-Text-Message

According to the allegations, when Carolyn Guthrie retired, she neglected to log out of Text Message Forwarding on her DPI-issued Apple laptop. The laptop continued to have access to text messages sent from and received on Guthrie’s personal iPhone from her September 2017 retirement until at least January 8, 2019 when the text message was intercepted.

On Wednesday evening, DPI Communications Director Graham Wilson told WRAL, “”We do not know where the text message came from. We are conducting an investigation to try to find out.”

Considering DPI has had that text message for about a year, I’m a little skeptical that getting to the bottom of Spygate is all of a sudden a huge priority. In order to help DPI in its investigation, I have filed the following public records request for electronic device inventory numbers for people who worked for DPI’s K-3 Literacy Department during the months in question (it seems unlikely devices would have been reassigned outside that department):

Dear Mr. Wilson,

Under North Carolina Public Records Law, G.S. §132-1, I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of the following records:

Fixed asset inventory numbers for any electronic devices assigned by the Department of Public Instruction (including but not limited to MacBook Air laptops, MacBook Pro laptops, iPads, and iMac desktop computers) between August 31, 2017 and March 31, 2019 to the following individuals:

Carolyn Guthrie
Karla Casteen
Pam Shue
Mary Hutchings
Tara Galloway
Paul Schmidt

And any or all other employees of the DPI K-3 Literacy Department during that date range.

As you know, the law requires that you respond to and fulfill this request “as promptly as possible.” If you expect a significant delay in responding to and fulfilling this request, please contact me with information about when I might expect copies or the ability to inspect the requested records.

If you deny any or all of this request, please cite each specific exemption you feel justifies the refusal to release the information and notify me of the appeal procedures available to me under the law. 

Thanks in advance for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Justin Parmenter

Snooping on the personal communications of a retired employee is a grossly unethical and possibly criminal action. It would be naive to trust that a Department of Public Instruction that would take a personal text message, not question where it came from, and use it to cancel a multimillion dollar reading assessment procurement will now do its due diligence in finding the person or people responsible.

If you’d like to aid in the investigation, you can submit your own public records request for the inventory numbers at the link below:

NC DPI Public Records Request Form

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