EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — A terminated East Greenwich firefighter is charged with deleting computer records for the town’s fire alarm system that protects schools and all other town-owned buildings, as well as commercial properties, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.
Robert Warner, 42, of Warwick, who was a 16-year veteran until his termination in July, is charged with two counts of computer trespass greater than $500.
The fire alarm system ties town-owned and commercial buildings directly to the fire department to expedite response times during emergencies.
Fire Chief Kevin Robinson said since it was deleted, the department has needed the data “two or three times” to repair the system.
“We made multiple offers to Mr. Warner [regarding the data] but he has not cooperated,” Robinson said.
Robinson added that when a circuit in the system goes down, people in the impacted buildings need to call the department if there’s a fire, instead of the alarm alerting firefighters.
“That can cost time,” he said. “And if no one is there to call, it could be an even bigger problem.”
According to an East Greenwich Police incident report, in addition to his duties as a firefighter, Warner was the department’s communication director.
That position put him in charge of maintaining a department laptop computer and a binder that the incident report indicates outlines the fire alarms in the town’s five circuits, and “was referred to as the ‘bible’ of fire alarm circuitry.”
After Warner resigned, police recovered the binder from him at his home but East Greenwich Technology Director Wendy Schmidle told police “most of the files on the computer had been deleted” on the day Warner resigned, the police report stated.
The report went on to say “a limited number of the deleted files could be restored.”
In June, state police determined “the actions taken by Lieutenant Warner were not criminal in nature,” according to the incident report.
Town Manager Gayle Corrigan said the importance of the data was magnified recently when one of the town’s three alarm circuits went offline.
Without that information, the system was down for weeks, and the town had to call in outside help to repair it “at a significant cost,” Corrigan said.
Corrigan said the individuals in the buildings in the impacted area were advised to use 911 in case of an emergency.
Amy Kempe, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, said the state initially declined to charge Warner, but then “additional information and evidence was developed by the East Greenwich Police that warranted a second review.”
Kempe said the additional information and evidence prompted the charges.
Warner is scheduled to be arraigned later this month.
The town council voted unanimously to terminate Warner in July for several administrative counts, including six involving insubordination.
Target 12 reached out to Warner by telephone but has yet to receive a response.