The 901: Germantown aldermen go to war over #cybersecurity #training

The “Crisis in Germantown” entered its third day this morning as aldermen continued to mull over whether to censure colleague Dean Massey for refusing cybersecurity training.

If you’re new to this story, Massey recently decided to make the city’s mandatory cybersecurity training his Battle of Thermopylae, even creating his own personal email address for city business after the administration restricted his city email. I mean, he’s not saying “This…is…Germantown!” yet, or “Tonight we dine in hell!” But the stakes are high — and getting higher after Alderman Rocky Janda yesterday called for his censure.

Our Corinne Kennedy is following the developing story, and in her latest piece quotes an email to city officials in which Massey explains what the controversy is reallyabout:

“I find it concerning that city employees appear to (be) unilaterally creating mandates for elected officials and then implementing punishments. It seems a lot of power has been placed in the hands of the IT Director if he is to be judge, jury and executioner in such cases,” he said.

In other words, this is about Democracy, folks: Do the people really want an unelectedIT director forcing elected city officials to receive training on how to protect the city from cyber-attacks? In this light, Massey refusing training is a modern-day Boston Tea Party.

Massey has a point: Elected officials report to the people, not to unelected IT directors. Granted. But after a ransomware attack brought Collierville to its knees in July, and as cybersecurity remains a pressing concern for cities across the country, you’d think Massey and any elected official would recognize the gravity of the threat and proactively volunteer to take any training that could protect the city and its citizens from attacks.

But, of course, this power struggle isn’t merely over who gets to mandate cybersecurity training: Massey has been at odds with the administration and his colleagues for years.

Most recently, Massey accused Mayor Mike Palazzolo of installing new locks in City Hall to mess with some of the aldermen, himself included, and said he received a threatening drawing in his mailbox that said “some people just need a pat on the back” with an image of someone getting pushed off a ledge, WREG News Channel 3 reported in May.

If you’re wondering what issue could be so serious that Massey would get what could conceivably be called a death threat — well, that would be the question of how to grow the landlocked city. Massey is solidly against high-density developments while Palazzolo and his supporters on the Board of Aldermen are less opposed, with conditions.

Almost every city government has these kinds of weird little power struggles. More often than not, they’re just embarrassing tiffs, quickly forgotten by the public. What makes this controversy different is that the power struggle is putting the city’s cybersecurity at risk, and that’s not a risk that any elected or nonelected official should be willing to take.


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