A Davenport alderman had his work computer wiped clean only days after a fabricated email with confidential information about the city’s purchase of the Rhythm City casino was sent to a local television station.
Davenport police questioned the motivation of the request by Alderman Mike Matson, according to 90 pages of police reports received by the Quad-City Times through an open records request. Matson told Davenport school district information technology specialists the computer was running slow. The 8th Ward alderman teaches Junior ROTC at Davenport Central High School.
He made the request Sept. 17, four days after the email was sent purportedly by Alderman Gene Meeker and a police investigation opened.
Police investigated the email sent to KWQC on Sept. 13 as a case of impersonating a public official. The fabricated email was critical of the payout to casino developer Steve Edelson a few weeks before the city agreed to pay him $99,000 to end a development agreement. Also, the email mentioned secret meetings with Hotel Blackhawk developer Amrit Gill and discussions with a national gaming company.
A second email that was critical of Mayor Bill Gluba was sent a few days earlier in Alderman Jeff Justin’s name.
Meeker and Justin told police they don’t use the email addresses used in the messages sent to KWQC.
Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf reviewed the investigation and declined to file any charges in the case. He was asked to conduct the review by Scott County Attorney Mike Walton, who was concerned about a possible conflict of interest.
During the police investigation, a laptop computer was seized from Matson’s classroom to determine if the emails came from it, but that was two weeks after the computer was re-imaged at Matson’s request.
Police questioned the timing of the work request. In the police forensic report, Detective William Hurt noted a gap in the computer’s data.
“The fact that the machine was significantly altered four days after the alleged criminal activity is very suspicious,” Hurt wrote.
Matson asked school district information technology workers to reformat the laptop and asked if it would be wiped clean, saying it was running slow. A work request for Sept. 17 states “Reimage me!!!” The computer was seized by police on Oct. 2.
In follow-up police interviews, district IT employees described Matson as “real anxious.”
Matson called IT about his computer three times the day he left it and early the next day, one district employee told police, describing the alderman as “extremely agitated.”
After Wednesday’s city council meeting, Matson said he didn’t know police spoke to two people he said he met with around the time the Meeker email was sent.
“It is pretty obvious I had nothing to do with it,” he said of the police reports.
City Adminstrator Craig Malin explained to police that he met with Matson, Meeker and Alderman Barney Barnhill in a small group and with the full council in closed session about the casino situation and said that Matson expressed the most concern about the city’s plan to acquire the casino.
In their interviews with police, Meeker and Justin said the council worked well together. Justin told police the faked emails created a “sense of betrayal.”
Justin requested the police reports through an open records request at the same time as the Quad-City Times.
“My name was used to disparage the mayor, and it didn’t come from me,” Justin said, saying the computer service request was questionable. “That is what prompted me to get more information, and I think I’ve got the information now.
“Myself and the other aldermen will review it a little closer and we’ll see what their thoughts are,” Justin said.
In his letter to Davenport police saying no charges would be filed, Wolf noted that computer sub-IP addresses are written over every few days, making it difficult to determine which computer was used.
Wolf acknowledged in his letter that witnesses came forward to say that Matson was with them around the time the emails were sent.