Company offers to sell back San Benito computers

Jan. 25—SAN BENITO — A San Benito school district online auction sold thousands of computers and tablets, some of which contained employees' and students' personal data, a computer store owner said Wednesday.

South Texas Auction Co.'s records show the district sold more than 2,000 computers and 1,500 tablets during a July 23 online auction, David Avila, co-owner of Brownsville-based RDA Technologies, said.

Avila said he bought about 700 district computers before discovering at least 11 hard drives contained district data including employees' and students' names, phone numbers, addresses, students' grades and some bank account information.

Of the 11 computers in which he says he discovered personal information, one has been destroyed, he said.

Now, he is offering to sell the 10 computers along with 503 computers which he has not inspected to the district for $99,579.04, a figure based on the computers' brands and models.

"They asked me to sell them the equipment back," he said. "They've been insisting on a quote. If they want to buy our stock, they can buy it. We're not demanding — you asked for a price."

However, he said about 200 computers, which he has refurbished after inspections failed to uncover district information, are not for sale to the district, adding officials can rely on his inspections because school districts contract his company to destroy their computers' hard drives.

"We have a good reputation and that speaks for itself," Avila said. "Why do people trust us for data destruction?"

Company's offer

During about three months of discussions with the district, Avila said officials had offered him $138,619 to buy the computers he purchased for about $29,000, a claim district officials have denied.

Meanwhile, Avila said he turned down the offer because he did not want to sign a nondisclosure clause, which was part of the agreement.

"We will sell only if there's no nondisclosure agreement," he said. "We don't want to be part of hiding the truth."

Computer buyer

Meanwhile, a Utah woman says her husband also bought district computers during the auction before they discovered the district had not wiped clean at least one computer's hard drive.

"We have only been able to look at one of the computers so far and its hard drive was not wiped," the woman stated in a private Facebook message.

On-site inspection

Earlier this month at Avila's offices, the Valley Morning Star inspected a computer, which Avila selected, finding a teacher's bank account number; a teacher's partial bank account number; a teachers list including names, user names and emails; students' names, identification numbers and grades; a students failing list including names; a migrant students list including names, student identification numbers and grade levels; and IP and MAC numbers to district copiers and printers.

Proposed contract debated

Last Friday, Superintendent Theresa Servellon posted a statement on the district's website in which she stated Avila had offered to enter into a contract which specified he would wipe clean the computers' hard drives while signing a nondisclosure agreement.

On Wednesday, Avila denied he offered to enter into such a contract.

During an Oct. 31 meeting with Servellon and district technology director Todd English, the terms of such an agreement were "mentioned," Avila said.

"That was mentioned," he said. "We mentioned the type of services we provide but we never offered them as a solution."

District questions data

Last month, district officials first posted a statement notifying the public about the computer sale.

"San Benito CISD previously provided public notice that a local electronics recycler, RDA Technologies, purchased computer devices from the district that may have contained historical data of the district," Servellon stated last Friday. "When the district learned of this, it reached out to RDA Technologies in an effort to reacquire the involved devices and determine what information, if any, is contained on the devices."

"For several weeks, Mr. Avila repeatedly refused to provide additional details to the district regarding the information allegedly contained on the purchased devices so the district attempted to reacquire the laptops and CPUs to conduct its own analysis," she stated.

"Despite multiple efforts to come to a reasonable resolution with RDA Technologies, the district has not been able to independently corroborate any of the allegations of the presence of sensitive personal information on these devices," she stated.

"Unless and until the district is able to conduct a thorough analysis of the devices purchased by RDA Technologies and identify the specific individuals whose sensitive personal information may be involved so appropriate services can be offered to those individuals, any publicized assertion that the sensitive personal information of district employees or students would be misleading and irresponsible," Servellon stated.

"The district has also reported this matter, as well as the conduct of RDA Technologies, to the consumer protection division of the Texas Attorney General's Office."

Avila: Company offers inspection

Meanwhile, Avila said he has given district officials opportunities to inspect the computers.

On Oct. 28, English reviewed the computers at the company's offices, he said.

"At that time, RDA Technologies only permitted district personnel to briefly review two devices, neither of which contained any sensitive personal information," Servellon stated. "Moreover, the representations personally made by Mr. Avila did not include reference to any sensitive personal information being resident on the purchased devices."

Avila said he also offered officials the opportunity to inspect computers on Jan. 11.