Riverhead Central School District's administrative office on Osborn Avenue. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead School Superintendent Augustine Tornatore had an electronic privacy sweep done at the district’s Osborn Avenue offices last fall, according to documents obtained by RiverheadLOCAL through a Freedom of Information Law request.

Alpha Group, a private investigations firm based in Farmingdale, conducted the sweep of seven offices in the district’s administrative building at a cost to the district of $5,000, according to the documents.

Tornatore said in an interview today the main reason for the sweep was a concern about the possible leak of confidential information from the district offices.

Asked if he believed the offices were bugged, Tornatore said: “It was certainly brought to my attention by quite a few different people. And we just needed to verify whether that was the case or not.”

But the superintendent, who started in his job July 1, would not say whether the sweep found any listening devices or other security breaches.

“I’m happy to report that after this was done, the district is secure…I can’t really share out more right now, but I can say that the district is now secure,” Tornatore said.

“We just wanted to ensure that confidentiality was maintained within this building,” he said.

The district apparently had security issues that reached beyond the district office building. On Dec. 3, it was the victim of a cyber attack that shut down the district’s computer and technology infrastructure. That incident remains under investigation.  

“My goal is to fix this district and get into a better place and make things better,” Tornatore said today. “And a big part of that is ensuring that we have confidentiality, especially when it comes to personnel matters,” he said. “So, it’s problematic when people are disclosing information that they shouldn’t be, or it’s getting out there in different formats.”

Alpha Group’s $5,000 invoice, dated Sept. 27, was addressed to Tornatore at the district office. A purchase order calling for payment of the invoice, requested by Tornatore, was dated Oct. 5 and a $5,000 check to Alpha Group was cut the following day.

The “privacy sweep” took place at around the time rumors began circulating about the imminent departure of the district’s longtime business official, Deputy Superintendent Sam Schneider.

The board of education held two special meetings in executive session — on Sept. 28 and Oct. 5 — to discuss a matter involving an unidentified employee, later acknowledged to be Schneider.

On Oct. 5, the board agreed to solicit proposals for special legal counsel to investigate an employee. The solicitation was disclosed at a regular board meeting on Oct. 12, when the board during a public meeting hired a law firm to conduct the investigation. During that meeting, it abolished the position of deputy superintendent and also hired an “acting business official” — since Schneider had been “administratively reassigned,” Board of Education President Laurie Downs acknowledged the following week. The school board on Nov. 30 hired an acting assistant superintendent for finance and operations, though Schneider has not yet tendered his resignation from that post.

As reported earlier today, the East Hampton school board has a resolution on its agenda tonight hiring Schneider as assistant superintendent for business.-

– Denise Civiletti contributed to this story.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: alek@riverheadlocal.com