Second EBR staffer on leave in probe of possible software theft

Homeland security employee eyed in use of city-parish software

The chief of operations for the Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness has been placed on administrative leave as Baton Rouge officials investigate whether an attempt was made to steal an in-house software program from the local government.

The Advocate reported Monday that Parish Attorney Mary Roper had been placed on leave for emailing source codes from the software program to her husband, another city-parish employee, who also has a background in computer programming.

City-parish officials are investigating whether MOHSEP employee Kyle Jones was attempting to sell an in-house software program called TRACE 360 as his own program through his private business ventures.

Jones could not be reached for comment.

The chief administrative officer for Mayor-President Kip Holden, William Daniel, confirmed Jones was on administrative leave, but didn’t say for how long or when he was first placed on leave.

Daniel said he couldn’t comment on personnel issues.

When asked if the city-parish had turned over the investigation to law enforcement authorities, Daniel responded: “We are gathering information to learn if there has been a crime. Once we make a decision, we will immediately inform the proper authorities if a crime has been committed.”

Jones registered the Jones Disaster Management Group LLC with the Secretary of State’s office in 2009. He also lists himself as a partner in Grantware LLC on his LinkedIn page. Grantware was described in a previous news report as a software program meant to greatly speed the grant reporting process.

Roper said Monday that she was asked by Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe to take a few days off while the investigation continues. Roper is an unclassified employee and cannot be forced to take administrative leave, like Jones. However, the council can remove her with a majority vote.

Roper’s involvement became known during an internal investigation into Jones’ activity that found she sent an email to her husband, Eiad Odeh, with source codes from TRACE 360.

TRACE 360 was developed by city-parish employees and is used in MOHSEP to streamline disaster management tasks.

Odeh is not on administrative leave, Daniel said.

Roper said she agreed to take leave but adamantly denies any wrongdoing.

She said she was directed to register the software to copyright it on the city-parish’s behalf, a process that requires sharing source codes with the U.S. Copyright Office. She said she emailed the codes to her husband’s private email account because he could advise her based on his background with computer work.

“I’ve done nothing wrong and I don’t understand why anyone would do this without completely investigating the legal aspects of legalization of a software copyright,” Roper said Monday.

TRACE 360 was copyrighted to the city-parish in June 2011, according to the U.S. Copyright Office.

Odeh also has a software company registered with the Secretary of State’s office called OptaSoft, which is described as a commercial building plan review software that streamlines code enforcement.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter @rebekahallen. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow the City Hall Buzz blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz.