By DOTTY NIST
Concerns about possible hacking of District 3 Commissioner Larry Jones’ county email account or breach of the county server were put to rest by an investigation by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO).
In early September 2011, a number of emails calling for the “firing” of “Czar Larry Jones” were circulated from the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, apparently sent by an Alice Jones. Commissioner Jones told the Herald/Breeze that he accepted the critical emails as something to be expected in politics.
However, on Sept. 7, 2011, he received an email from Miramar Beach resident Suzanne Harris with the subject line “Temper Temper! forwarding an email exchange that appeared to have been between the commissioner himself and Alice Jones. It contained a message that appeared to have come from Jones’ county email account, email@example.com, that read “F— you Alice Jones whoever you are.”
Harris told the Herald/Breeze that, upon seeing the message, she thought Larry Jones must have “snapped” due to the critical emails about him that had been circulating. She said she spoke with Jones by phone later and that he told her that he had not sent the email in question addressed to Alice Jones. Harris said she encouraged Jones to report the incident to the WCSO.
“I was horrified,” Harris said.
Larry Jones told the Herald/Breeze that he had not sent the email and that he had staff check to see if it had gone through the county server. He said he was told that it had not. He reported the incident and a WCSO investigation was initiated under the category of harrassing/obscene calls.
Harris cooperated with investigators, allowing them to obtain a printed copy from her computer of what appeared to be an original email sent from the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. She said she contacted the WCSO repeatedly over the following months attempting to find out the outcome of the investigation, but was unable to get information on it. She said she also questioned others in the community to try to obtain information about the identity of the person sending the email in question.
Harris said that several months ago she was able to obtain the results of the investigation and shared them with others in the community.
Completed in February 2012, the investigation revealed that no emails had been sent out from Larry Jones’ county email account from Aug. 31, 2011 and Sept. 7, 2011, the date the email in question was sent. It was therefore concluded by the WCSO that the county email server had not been breached.
A subpoena issued to Google, Inc., resulted in the identification of the IP address connected with the email address email@example.com. A subpoena issued to Mediacom resulted in the information that the account assigned to the IP was associated with the address of Bob Hudson in Santa Rosa Beach.
Hudson, executive director for the Walton County Taxpayers Association and a South Walton Mosquito District commissioner, confirmed that he had sent the email in question. He said he had sent it only to one person, Suzanne Harris, as a joke.
Asked if he thought Harris had believed the email to be a joke, Hudson responded, “Obviously not.”
A report on the investigation states that Assistant State Attorney Greg Anchors was contacted about the incident but “declined to pursue any type of charges with this investigation,” and the investigation was concluded.