Lead water pipes pulled from underneath the street are seen in Newark, N.J., Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. Credit: Seth Wenig / AP

A water district in Somerset County is accusing its former superintendent of hamstringing its operations by locking the board of trustees out of the organization’s email account and other software.

The Anson-Madison Water District in Madison accused Michael Corson of changing the passwords to its email and Amazon accounts, his former work-issued cellphone and three financial, mapping and billing software applications that are integral to the agency’s everyday business, according to a lawsuit the trustees’ attorney, Daniel Mitchell, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

Corson was the district’s superintendent until the board of trustees fired him and foreman Michael Jordan on Nov. 29 following accusations that they had sold former water lines for scrap metal and pocketed more than $12,000 in proceeds instead of returning the money to the district.

“Despite its efforts to find a technical solution, the District remains locked out of these systems and unable to access them, jeopardizing its ability to carry on normal operations,” Mitchell said in the lawsuit. “Corson’s conduct has caused a threat to public health and safety because it directly interferes with the District’s ability to access the financial, billing and operational data it needs to fulfill its mission of supplying fresh water to its customers.”

Corson denied having access to his former employer’s email account or business software, according to the lawsuit. The Somerset County district attorney dropped theft charges against him and Jordan last month after new evidence came to light, the Morning Sentinel reported.  

Neither the district attorney nor the sheriff’s office returned requests for information about what that evidence entailed.

The district is asking for injunctive relief and for a judge to find Corson guilty of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and to force him to pay for the district’s legal fees and other money it has lost as a result of Corson’s actions, which the utility estimated to be $5,000.

Mitchell also asked the court to compel Corson to restore the district’s access to its email and ArcGIS, QuickBooks and RVS billing software accounts. The district accused Corson of changing all of those passwords and changing the settings so that only his personal email address could receive links to reset new passwords.

The district fired the rest of its employees on Dec. 21 and began contracting with the Maine Rural Water Association to manage its operations.

Corson’s attorney, Ronald Bourget of Augusta, said that he and his client planned to meet with the water district to “straighten out their practices,” but did not answer directly when asked if Corson still denies having access to the accounts.

“Although the complaint appears to be written in such a way to cause public concern, my view is that there’s a lot being said about nothing,” Bourget said.  “There’s not a lot that can be said to the public, except that there are disputed facts on how this all took place.”

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Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.