BOISE — Three Idaho Transportation Department workers were placed on administrative leave in 2018 after they created a script that was tracking changes in an Excel spreadsheet, according to Ada County Highway District’s general counsel.
ACHD also used the spreadsheet but was unaware of the state employees’ tracking program, Steve Price, ACHD’s general counsel, said.
“We just became aware of it,” Price told the highway district commissioners at a pre-commission meeting Wednesday. He noted the three employees responsible for the program at ITD had been placed on administrative leave for “four or five months.”
ITD turned over a set of workbooks to the Federal Office of the Inspector General in the summer of 2018 because the spreadsheet was recording changes in the data, a department spokesman said Wednesday. ACHD is concerned that the script might have breached its internal servers’ security.
The script on the spreadsheet, which contained information about asphalt assurance that contractors were using for federal projects, would tell ITD employees when numbers were changed, a creation that was supposed to help root out inaccuracies.
The problem, according to Price, is that ACHD was caught in that net.
“There was only one federal project we were inputting data into (in the summer of 2018), but it’s unclear if they were able to get more info than just the project,” Price said.
ACHD is still investigating the scope of the breach and has hired a consultant to look into how far the potential issue might go, Price said.
Vincent Trimboli, a communications manager for ITD, confirmed the existence of the project in an email Wednesday.
“We are aware employees built a spreadsheet that recorded the history of the asphalt quality assurance workbook. We believe the workbook did not retrieve any information off Ada County Highway District servers. ITD turned the workbooks over to the Federal Office of Inspector General for investigation in the summer of 2018,” Trimboli said.
ITD’s internal policy does not allow them to comment on personnel issues like administrative leave, Trimboli said in an email.
“The worst-case scenario is that they were stealing our internal data,” Price said, but added that to his knowledge, the program no longer exists.
“That program has been eliminated,” Price said.
Scott Graf, spokesman for the Idaho Office of the Attorney General, said he could not confirm or deny whether the office is investigating the Idaho Transportation Department.
According to Idaho’s Public Records Act, investigatory records from some agencies — such as the Attorney General’s Office — are exempt from public records requests. The Idaho Press filed a records request seeking any records related to an attorney general investigation of ITD in the last year. The office did not cite the public records exemption for investigatory records; rather, the response read “no materials responsive to this request at this time.”