Banjo CEO steps down after news of past KKK membership

(screengrab from Banjo company website) CEO Damien Patton and his company, Banjo, has signed contracts with government entities in Utah to create a live-time surveillance system. He was involved with white supremacist groups as a late teenager.

The CEO and founder of the Utah-based surveillance technology company Banjo resigned from his position on Friday, 10 days after news emerged that he’d been a member of white supremacist groups.

Banjo announced Damien Patton’s departure in a blog post, saying the company’s chief technology officer, Justin R. Lindsey, would replace him.

“I am confident Banjo’s greatest days are still ahead, and will do everything in my power to ensure our mission succeeds," Patton said in the post. "However, under the current circumstances, I believe Banjo’s best path forward is under different leadership.”

Since OneZero, an online science and tech publication, reported Patton was a member of the Ku Klux Klan as a teenager and was the getaway driver in a synagogue shooting, the company has come under scrutiny.

In a blog post the day the news broke, Patton disavowed his past beliefs and apologized to those he’d hurt.

“I am deeply ashamed of this time in my life and feel sincere remorse and deep regret for my affiliation with hateful groups whose actions and beliefs are completely despicable, immoral and indefensible,” he wrote.

The University of Utah, which paid $500,000 a year for Banjo’s services, terminated its contract Thursday. All other known state contracts — secured at the urging of Attorney General Sean Reyes and his staff — are suspended until they get results from a third-party audit.

State Auditor John Dougall is reviewing whether the platform, which involves taking in data from UDOT traffic camera feeds, 911 calls, emergency vehicle locations, and private and public security cameras, is susceptible to bias or privacy concerns.

The company says it uses the information to help first responders and quickly deploy resources where they’re needed, but privacy experts had long been worried about Banjo’s potential for harm, either through the misuse of data or from hackers.

Utah officials didn’t act until news broke of Patton’s past.

In the blog post, new CEO Lindsey said, “Nine months ago, I was inspired by Banjo’s mission to join the company full time as the CTO. As CEO, I’m looking forward to continuing Banjo’s dedication to technology solutions that protect privacy.”