Should felons be allowed to be IT managers?

Nebraska's Lincoln County Board was in a quandary this week over whether or not to keep its newly hired county manager of information technology - who happened to be a convicted felon. The case represents a confluence of events that in the end begs the question: when, in some cases anyway, has a convicted criminal finished paying his dues to society?

According to a story in the North Platte Bulletin the issue surrounds Steen Nichols who was convicted of felony shoplifting in 2004 when he was the information systems instructor and manager of information systems at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture. He was convicted of using university credit cards to purchase between $10,000 and $15,000 worth of computer equipment. He got two years probation, a $1,000 fine and was ordered to pay restitution. Nichols was released from probation in October 2005. His conviction was set aside in December 2005. But in Nebraska the state does not erase convictions from the official record. The defendant's civil rights are restored however, according to the newspaper. Move ahead to 2007. Nichols was hired March 19 as Lincoln county's manager of information technology for $43,000 per year. The job will let him access all 90 workstations throughout county offices and all county databases - including ongoing law enforcement investigations and records. And the county sheriff in particular is none too happy about that notion. "There is no way to set up audit trails to track where he has been and what files have been edited or deleted," Sheriff Jerome Kramer said in the newspaper report. "Many of the files and reports that he has access to are very confidential and are not open to public viewing." Kramer said he was considering denying Nichols access to Lincoln County Sheriff Office computers. The computer technician "has the power not only to access and alter all reports and records but also has the power to shut down our entire reporting writing system," he said. "Since the report system is tied directly to the (911) dispatch center, he can also disable all police communications in Lincoln County," Kramer said. "This would include all police, sheriff and fire." The county board went into closed session during its regular meeting Monday to consider the issue and ultimately decided to take no action on Sheriff Kramer's concerns. Nichols is expected to assume his duties April 1. What a nice working environment that will be.

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