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Confidential records left exposed could lead to fines

WBFO News file photo

Erie County could face millions of dollars in fines if the federal government determines that the county disclosed confidential records.

County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw told a Legislature committee Tuesday auditors discovered Department of Social Services workers were placing confidential documents in open boxes and totes in areas of the Rath Building open to the public.

Mychajliw says the administration knew of the problem for months and years and did nothing. 

"I understand they're thoroughly embarrassed and they should be. The fact [is] Mark Poloncarz was comptroller going back to 2006. He stated this has been going on for years, but he did nothing about it. Here, we take office, and within a few months identify the issue and try to work with the administration to actually fix it, and correct it," said Mychajliw.

Deputy County Executive Richard Tobe says he first learned of the potential problem April 1, but no records are known to have been disclosed.

Tobe says while reviewing the matter he found there was an unacceptable risk to the way records are destroyed and new procedures are now in place.

"We provided a book with timelines and documents that support everything I said. We still do not have a single piece of paper from the comptroller, except maybe some press releases. I don't think that's the way the county should be conducting business and there's very serious things at stake," said Tobe.

The matter is so serious that the county could face upwards of $3 million in fines if federal regulators determine that confidential records were in fact disclosed to the public.  

Tobe says he followed the law and notified regulators that confidential information may have been disclosed to the public.

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