City in Florida Will Pay Hackers For Return of System Held Hostage For Three Weeks

The Florida city chose to pay to recover their data.

The Florida city chose to pay to recover their data. Ruth Peterkin/Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | New York expands charitable bail funds … Former FBI agent indicted for investigation of former Missouri governor … Coalition forms to recall Los Angeles mayor.

A city in Florida is going to pay $600,000 to free data and computer systems held hostage by hackers for the past three weeks. The Riviera City Council voted this week to pay the ransom, even though they could not determine where or how the attack occurred. In addition to city IT staff and lawyers working on the issue, the city also enlisted help from outside consultants who have worked on municipality hacking issues. Despite locking up email and phone service for some time, city spokeswoman Rose Anne Brown said that the city has “pretty much been able to continue providing services.” Jonathan Evans, Riviera Beach’s city manager said that with the vote to pay, “hopefully this will return the city’s computer system to being fully operational.” The FBI, Homeland Security, and U.S. Secret Service are investigating the attack, as it comes after more than 50 cities across the country have all been hit by similar ransomware schemes in recent years. Baltimore was the most recent and city employees there still have not recovered full use of their emails. “This whole thing is so new to me and so foreign and it’s almost where I can’t even believe that this happens but I’m learning that it’s not as uncommon as we would think it is,” said Riviera Beach Council Chairwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson. “Every day I’m learning how this even operates, because it just sounds so far fetched to me.” The council now plans to spend an additional $941,000 for new computers and hardware with upgraded defenses. [WJCT; Florida Sun Sentinel; CBS News; Palm Beach Post]

CASH BAIL | New York lawmakers passed a bill this week that would expand the ability of charitable bail organizations to help people who are stuck in jail awaiting trial. Currently, these organizations are only allowed in New York City and can only post $2,000 in bail for defendants. Under the new legislation, they would be allowed to exist throughout the state and able to post up to $10,000 in bail. Democratic State Sen. Gustavo Rivera sponsored a bill in 2012 to legalize charitable bail organizations, and again sponsored this bill. “The reality is that ultimately bail is about the criminalization of poverty, and we want to move away from that,” he said, while adding that the organizations are “incredibly judicious about who they actually post bail [for].” The New York District Attorneys Association was opposed to the bill, and released a statement saying that this would threaten public safety. “After January 1, 2020, presumably the only people who will be in jail will be people who have been charged with the most heinous crimes in our communities and people who have already demonstrated that they are a flight risk.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not not made a decision on whether he will sign the bill yet, but has previously supported ending cash bail in the state. [New York Law Journal]

MISSOURI INVESTIGATION CONTINUES | William Tisabay, a former FBI agent who had been working as a private investigator, was charged with six counts of perjury and one count of tampering with evidence in the 2018 criminal investigation of former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens. Tisabay was hired to look into allegations that Greitens used a photo of a partially nude woman as blackmail to cover up an affair he had with her. The indictment states that he lied under oath about “matters which could substantially affect, or did substantially affect, the course or outcome of the Greitens case.” Though the state ultimately dropped all charges against him, the Missouri House considered impeachment proceedings, and Greitens resigned in June of 2018. This week, his attorney, Scott Rosenblum, said that he should still be governor. “This was a misguided prosecution from the very beginning. It’s one of the worst cases of prosecutorial misconduct that I have seen in my 36 years of practicing criminal defense law,” said Rosenblum. Tisabay’s attorney, Jermaine Wooten, defended the actions of his client. “We have one position. He's innocent,” he said. [Kansas City Star; Washington Examiner; KCRG]

LOS ANGELES RECALL | A new coalition is trying to recall Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, citing the dramatic increase in the homeless population during his tenure. At a press conference, recall leader Alexandra Datig said that “because of Eric Garcetti’s failed leadership, becoming homeless in Los Angeles has become a death sentence, for some. We ask that you accept your failure and that you step down.” Last week, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority released a report that found a 16% jump in homelessness in the past year. Bill Carrick, a campaign consultant for Garcetti, said that the mayor is working hard to fight these numbers. “The mayor has invested time, effort, energy and focus to try and deal with what is a city crisis. To play games with a stunt-driven recall is just unfortunate,” he said. The bar to try to recall an elected official is high. In order for the recall effort to move forward, the group will need to collect 315,000 signatures from voters. As of Thursday morning, the group’s Change.org petition had just under 14,000 signatures. [CBS Los Angeles; Los Angeles Daily News]

PITTSBURGH PARKS | In an effort supported by Mayor Bill Peduto, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy began collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would raise city property taxes to fund parks. The money from the taxes would be matched by the conservancy, and would be used to improve, maintain, and create new parks. “Now, more than ever, it’s critical that we secure a funding stream for our parks that allows us to go above and beyond what the city can do on its own,” Peduto said. Jayne Miller, the conservancy’s director, said that the investment is not for regional parks, but smaller ones. “The neighborhood and community parks have suffered the greatest because of the level of resources available to them,” said Miller. The measure is opposed by Council Member, Anthony Coghill, who said that he will not support any tax hikes. “I don’t have any big parks in my district, so I feel like it’s just another tax on my [residents]. Yes, you can make the argument that we visit them, but it’s just going to make it less desirable to move into the city, at least my parts of the city. A tax is a tax,” he said. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Patch Media]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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