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Former Baltimore city IT worker who was target of investigation loses job with Baltimore County schools

A former Baltimore public works IT staffer who was found to have hacking tools on his city-issued computer and backdoor access to the department director's computer said Friday he had lost his new job working for the Baltimore County Public School system.

Tirell Clifton was the target of an Baltimore inspector general’s investigation that prompted Mayor Catherine Pugh to order a security review of the city’s systems.

The city fired Clifton, who mounted a long-shot mayoral bid in 2016, in May over the investigation’s findings.

He said he then landed a job working as an IT contractor for the county school system.

But he said Friday that position had been ended.

"I’m OK, besides just losing my job,” Clifton said. “I was called into the admin offices and told that, due to budget constraints, my services were no longer needed.”

Clifton disputed the findings of the inspector general’s investigation released Thursday, saying the hacking tools and other materials on his computer were part of security research. The access to the Director Rudy Chow’s computer was to help fix Chow’s email archive, Clifton said.

He questioned the stated reason for being let go from the schools position.

“I don't believe that at all, but I wasn't going to dispute it,” he said. “It seems like they already had their minds made up.”

Schools system spokesman Brandon Oland said that an investigation was under way and Clifton had been “asked not to report.”

Oland said Clifton worked for an IT contractor called Infojini.

Clifton said Thursday that he had not disclosed to the school system that the city fired him.

A representative of Infojini, who declined to give her name, said she was not aware of the city’s investigation into Clifton.

Clifton, who is now planning to run for president, said the school system advised him to check with the company whether it had any other work he could do.

Baltimore Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming began looking into Clifton over concerns that he had been using his city computer for campaign work. But Cumming said Thursday that once investigators turned up the security concerns, that became their focus.

Investigators found hacking tools and the special access to Chow’s computer, along with apps for viewing pornography and tools for pirating software, according to a public summary of the investigation and documents Clifton provided to The Baltimore Sun.

Clifton said that the tools were anti-virus software and the app was media viewing software called Kodi that can be used for many kinds of contact.

iduncan@baltsun.com

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