Nicole D. Perez, Managing Editor

Alice Echo-News Journal reporter Christopher Maher returned two discs to the 79th District Clerk's office last week, as part of an agreement with Coastal Bend College.

The two DVDs are at the center of a legal battle between Maher and several other defendants who legally obtained copies of the discs under the Freedom of Information Act.

CBC officials contend the information on the discs was stolen and contains sensitive personnel information, though CBC attorney Phillip McKinney has said the college does not know what is on the discs.

A message on the CBC Web site issues a warning to students and personnel. It reads:

"Coastal Bend College (CBC) recently became aware of unauthorized access to and theft of personal identity records of some of its students, employees, retirees, and part-time employees. Anthony Sanders, former PC/ Network Supervisor, has admitted to making copies of the information on a backup DVD and to copying additional information on a separate DVD, even though he was not asked to do so, nor was he given permission to do so, and had no authority to do so.

"Sanders, who left employment at CBC in March 2007, took the DVDs and information with him without the authority or permission of anyone at the College. These DVDs were released by the Jim Wells County District Clerk's office. Several individuals obtained copies of your information and in some cases shared it with their clients."

The discs were given to the 79th District Court for safekeeping by former CBC employee Sanders, who alleges that files and documents were being destroyed by the college. He said he backed up emails and files at the request of Director of Personnel Kathlyn Patton, who has since denied such.

Sanders is not the only former employee to accuse the college of destroying records. Ninfa Garcia, in a sworn statement, also accused Patton and her staff of removing and destroying documents.

The district clerk's office committed no wrongdoing, officials said, in releasing the discs when requested under the law.

Maher agreed to return the DVDs to the court pending a hearing before 79th District Judge Richard Terrell on Aug. 6.

Returning the DVDs "should not be construed as an admission that (Maher) engaged in any wrongdoing in acquiring the DVDs, nor does he intend any admission that he was not entitled to the DVDs as public information, nor is the surrender of the DVDs to be construed as an admission that he was not entitled to retain possession of the DVDs," court documents read.