WESTFIELD, NJ — A forensic investigation into the alleged partisan political tweet from the official account of the Downtown Westfield Corporation clears employees of the quasi-governmental agency of wrongdoing, records released Thursday show.
The investigation conducted by the firm Charles River Associates found no evidence that an unauthorized person accessed the official twitter account and concluded the alleged tweet did not come from the DWC’s office computers or the cell phones of the assistant executive director and the interim executive director.
“The personal cell phone of Beth Brenner did not have any indication of the Twitter for iPhone application having ever been installed,” the report says. “The personal cell phone of Kathleen Miller Prunty did have the Twitter for iPhone application installed, but there was no indication that it had been used on 10/25/19.”
The alleged tweet, a response to a tweet from Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, had stated: “Do you think we need the same common sense approach when you were Gov Christie’s front man ? Just curious.”
Seeming to come from the official account of the DWC, the tweet touched off a firestorm of criticism in the weeks leading up to the November 2019 election in which Bramnick sought re-election to the state Assembly and Prunty, the DWC’s interim executive director, was seeking election to the Township Committee in Cranford.
The investigation report obtained by TAPinto Westfield through a request under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act states that investigators “downloaded all available data from the DWC Twitter account, including IP session logs, account content and other logs.”
The earliest login from the DWC twitter account prior to the date of the alleged tweet being sent on Oct. 25 was Oct. 24 at 6:32 a.m. and the next login to the account was Oct. 26 at 11:18 a.m., the report says.
“Even if a particular tweet was sent from an account and the tweet itself was later deleted, this IP Audit log would still be expected to contain evidence of the login associated with the tweet if the user opened a session to do so, as this is not a log that can be changed by the user,” the report states.
The report says investigators did not examine devices beyond those of the DWC’s computers and the two employees’ cell phones, but the evidence investigators did look at does not indicate the tweet came from another device.
“CRA was unable to corroborate or confirm that this tweet was legitimate and actually sent from the DWC Twitter account (@westfieldtoday),” the report states. “This tweet did not exist in any of the systems examined by the CRA (DWC’s Twitter Account, the desktop computers of Kathleen Miller Prunty/Beth Brenner, or the personal phones of Kathleen Miller Prunty/Beth Brenner). It was also noted that the screenshot being circulated appeared to be from a Facebook page and not DWC’s Twitter account.”
The report does not speculate on the intent of the fabricated tweet.
In conveying the results of the investigation to the public in January, Mayor Shelley Brindle said the alleged tweet was a political attack.
“I am of course disheartened to know the true cause of this issue was the deliberate circulation of disinformation intended to discredit not only Kathleen Miller Prunty, who was a candidate for Council in Cranford, but the DWC as a whole — which is comprised of dedicated professionals whose contributions remain valuable to our town,” Brindle said.
Click here to read the full investigation report.
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