ELWOOD – Elwood police are checking into an anti-NorthPoint activist’s complaint about how her presentation was handled at a public hearing.
The hearing had been extended over three nights, ending Jan. 17 as hundreds of people came and dozens spoke about NorthPoint’s plans to build the Compass Business Park in Elwood.
Erin Gallagher of Manhattan Township made the longest presentation that night, showing photographs and presenting information she had gathered in a trip to the Kansas City area to visit a community where NorthPoint had built a business park.
She also had helped organize a NorthPoint protest parade that preceded a Jan. 11 convening of the hearing.
Gallagher contends that the operator of audio-visual equipment that night downloaded files that included personal information off a thumb drive she gave him so that her presentation could be displayed.
“It was my private thumb drive,” Gallagher said.
Police are trying to determine what happened and plan to talk to the audio-visual operator, who works for a Chicago production company.
The firm was hired by Serafin and Associates, the public relations firm representing NorthPoint, to operate audio-visual equipment for the hearing.
Gallagher gave a separate thumb drive that contained only her presentation to the Planning and Zoning Commission so it would have a record.
The thumb drive plugged into the laptop of the audio-visual operator also contained personal files.
“After the presentation, he wouldn’t delete it,” Gallagher said. “He said we need to keep this for the record.”
Eventually, Village Attorney David Silverman came over to the table, where Gallagher explained to him that the thumb drive included personal information.
“Silverman looked at the guy and said, ‘You need to delete her file,’” Gallagher said.
The files appeared to be deleted at that time. But Gallagher said she was unsure, so she later filed a police report.
Silverman agreed that he told the audio-visual operator to delete the files but said the matter did not seem very significant.
“When she said she had personal information on it, they called me over and I said delete it. That was it,” Silverman said.
Silverman said the village had instructed NorthPoint to provide the audio-visual equipment needed for the public hearing so that it would not be an expense for the village.
Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes said police are looking into the matter to determine whether there was any violation of computer tampering laws and whether Gallagher’s personal information was deleted from the audio-visual operator’s computer.
Hayes said Friday that police have determined who was operating the equipment.
“I think they’re making arrangements to meet that person,” he said.
NorthPoint spokesman Scott Burnham, who works with Serafin, said the firm took care of technical requirements for the hearing and hired Absolute Production Services to operate audio-visual equipment.
Absolute Production could not be reached Friday for comment.