Leg. wants investigation into documents

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — After the Erie County Comptroller sounded the alarm Monday about boxes full of personal information left out in the open, there are more calls for an investigation.

The Erie County Legislature's Minority Caucus is calling for an investigation into the potential disclosure of confidential documents left unsecured at the Rath building.

Legislator Edward Rath III (R) said, "We need to protect the interests of the residents of our community, and have this investigation and come to understand why this happened, and absolutely guarantee that it'll never happen again."

Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw says the sensitive documents were handled by the Department of Social Services, and were left in open boxes and totes in the basement and at the building's loading dock. He says the Department of Social Services has satellite offices elsewhere.

"It's possible that there may be more breaches of security in this matter at other locations. We do not know at this point in time whether or not county offices outside of this building were engaging in safety measures to protect county taxpayers," Mychajliw said.

Deputy County Executive Richard Tobe says corrective actions were taken early last month when his office first learned of the problem.

"What it looks like happened, at least in part, was that when totes were returned, many of the departments have locked and unlocked totes. Sometimes a department will get two unlocked, and a different department will get two locked ones. And I think it just got...the importance of this got lost," Tobe explained.

Erie County Commissioner of Social Services Carol Dankert added, "It really is a matter of reinforcing the existing policy, and making sure that if there are any gaffes or any weaknesses in that policy that we address those. At this point in time I have no reason to discipline someone."

In the meantime, Mychajliw is pressing forward with his audit of the Department of Social Services, which he says required subpoenas to get many workers to talk.

"When you see our final audit, it's going to boil down to lack of controls, lack of security to protect the people we are supposed to serve and no one giving a damn," Mychajliw said.

The comptroller's office took possession of around 2,000 confidential documents that were left unlocked in a tote. And while they are now locked up, Tobe says they belong to the Department of Social Services and he doesn't think Mychajliw had the right to take them in the first place.

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