Business

Regan Communications alleges hack by IT contractor

PR firm seeks damages from IT company

Regan Communications, one of Boston’s biggest public relations agencies, often has to clean up scandals created by clients. But this time, Regan had to fix a mess made by one of its IT contractors.

The company sued a New York information technology firm in Suffolk Superior Court last week, claiming a subcontractor hacked its computer system in retaliation for being fired from the job for making inappropriate comments to female staffers.

Regan is seeking compensation for $150,000 in damages after the office network was temporarily paralyzed.

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The problem started when Regan hired Endeavor Services Group to provide on-site IT support for the company. Endeavor subcontracted the work to another firm that brought in George Wilford to do the job at Regan’s North End headquarters.

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But according to court filings, Regan reached out to Endeavor on Aug. 1, 2012, saying it no longer wanted Wilford in the office. The reason: The PR agency had learned that Wilford had made derogatory comments about owner George Regan, as well as statements to two women in the office that “took on unwanted, inappropriate, and unprofessional overtones.”

It didn’t take long for Wilford to retaliate, according to the suit. Within hours of Wilford’s termination, he logged onto the Regan computer system remotely just before midnight and deleted the company’s active user directory, along with “hundreds of thousands of files relating to client work.” He then shut down the firm’s entire network, according to the suit.

The server shutdown left all of Regan’s offices — the agency had six at the time — without access to e-mail via smartphone for 39 hours.

Wilford didn’t help his case by sending an e-mail around 1 a.m. on Aug. 2, 2012, to a woman who worked at Regan at the time, claiming that he did “nothing wrong.” In that e-mail, included as an exhibit in the lawsuit, Wilford told the woman she was “so beautiful that [she] could be a model.” He wrapped up the rambling e-mail by telling her he would be available if she ever needed a “tech guy.”

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Boston police became involved, charging Wilford with malicious destruction of property. He pleaded guilty to the charge that October and was sentenced to 21 days in the Suffolk County House of Correction, jail time that he had already served by that point, according to the Boston Municipal Court clerk’s office.

Robert Bernheimer, Regan’s lawyer, declined to elaborate Monday on the statements referred to in the lawsuit that made Regan’s female employees uncomfortable. The critical personal comments about Regan, he said, had to do with his firm’s computer system.

“I think he felt that the company could have spent more money on the computer systems, [and] I think he expressed it in undiplomatic terms,” Bernheimer said of Wilford.

In its suit, Regan claims that Endeavor, which has operations in Marlborough, should compensate the firm for its losses because Endeavor breached its contract with Regan by not properly vetting or supervising Wilford, who in fact worked for an Endeavor subcontractor. Endeavor, the suit says, also failed to provide adequate IT services when Regan needed them after the shutdown.

“When a company like Endeavor provides services of that kind, they have an obligation to provide somebody that’s trustworthy,” Bernheimer said. “This person was not only not trustworthy but was malicious . . . in more than one regard.”

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Endeavor’s president, Jeff Travis, declined to comment.

The lawyer who represented Wilford in the criminal case also declined to comment, saying he had not seen Wilford since the criminal case ended. Wilford could not be located Monday.

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.