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Lee County deputy caught improperly accessing personal information


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Lee County deputy caught improperly accessing personal information

By Sara Belsole. CREATED Aug 1, 2014

FORT MYERS, Fla. - A Lee County deputy has resigned after an internal affairs investigation found he improperly accessed personal information using the department's secure database.

The report shows Deputy Steven Coles used the D.A.V.I.D database to search dozens of people, including 21 current members and one former member of the Lee County Sheriff's Office, 19 of them women.

Coles also spent two-and-a-half hours searching for all white females named Ashley between the ages of 21-24 residing in Lee county.

"Those two words sum it up best for me, disgust and disappointment," Sheriff Mike Scott said.

There were also names Coles routinely searched, like a female witness in a previous investigation that he had a romantic relationship with. He also searched his fiance's driver's license information six times and her ex-husband's information seven times.

"Whenever law enforcement uses public resources for a personal or private matter it is an abuse of those resources," local attorney Mike Chionopoulous said.
Chionopoulos says the victims could file a privacy lawsuit, but there would be little financial gain.
"In a case like this, it's a violation, you're going to feel violated, but there's no real damages," Chionopoulos said. "You didn't lose a job over it, you didn't lose your home over it."
Computer experts say this type of government software is set up so it always leaves a footprint.
"You can go back and see who accessed what and when," David Seitz, CFO of Greenwire Technology Solutions, said. "Everything has a time stamp on it."
Coles was the focus of two other internal investigations in the past five years in which he was suspended, put on probation and required to complete an ethics course.
In this case, Coles admitted to investigators the searches in question were done for personal reasons and he was aware it violated policy.
"It's pretty clear that he abused the system," Sheriff Scott said. "The evidence is compelling and we won't tolerate it."
Coles resigned just a few months shy of 25 years of service.