Indiana college won’t collect $250,000 judgment in IT password

Cyber security

The American College of Education announced Friday it will not collect on a $250,000 judgment against a former information technology worker who they say changed a key password and blocked 2,000 students from their data before he was fired.

“We wanted to compel our former employee to act in the best interest of the college and return the accounts and information belonging to the school,” the college’s interim president Shawntel Landry said in a news release emailed to IndyStar.

In a letter from his lawyer, Triano Williams, the former employee, had offered to help the school regain access to the data if they paid him $200,000.

The court battle illustrates a new frontier of technology concerns as organizations increasingly rely on cloud-based data services.

Google froze the college’s account for six months before handing control back to the school Jan. 13, about 12 hours after IndyStar asked the internet company for comment for a story published earlier this week.

All students have regained access and none of the data was compromised during the lockout, the college said Friday.

“We have taken steps administratively to ensure that the information technology policies continue to be followed to mitigate a similar circumstance,” Landry said. “We are committed to providing our students with the flexibility and resources to be excellent educators and make a difference for their students.”

Williams, who lives in suburban Chicago, failed to appear for multiple hearings in Indianapolis before Marion Superior Judge Heather Welch issued a default judgment in September that ordered Williams to provide the password and pay the college $248,350 in damages.

A spokeswoman for the college on Friday said it would not seek to collect the judgment “at this time” or “in the future.”

Whether the college reverses the decision could depend on what Williams chooses to do with a racial discrimination lawsuit the former employee filed in December in the U.S. District Court in Chicago.

In that suit, Williams claims the college filed the case in Indiana to make it difficult and costly for him to attend court hearings. He has asked the federal court to throw out the Indiana case.

He also claims the college filed its lawsuit in retaliation after he complained to supervisors about discrimination against him and other black employees.

Calvita J. Frederick, Williams’ lawyer, said Friday she would not comment until she read the college’s statement.

The American College of Education offers online master’s and doctorate degrees for teachers across the country. It’s based in Indianapolis, but has students and employees around the country.

Last year, the college decided to move its information technology workers to Indianapolis. Other employees accepted a severance deal, leaving Williams as the only systems administrator.

Williams refused to relocate from his home in Riverdale, Ill., and was fired April 1. Before he left, the college claims he changed a key password on an administrative account.

When college officials called Williams, he directed them to his lawyer.

“In order to amicably settle this dispute, Mr. Williams requires a clean letter of reference and payment of $200,000,” Frederick wrote in a letter to the college’s attorney.

Call IndyStar reporter Vic Ryckaert at (317) 444-2701. Follow him on Twitter: @vicryc.

Fired IT employee offered to unlock data — for $200,000

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