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According to an official announcement posted July 20th, 2010 on the website of Governor Gary Herbert, the Utah Department of Workforce Services has initiated termination proceedings against two employees believed to have created a list disclosing the personal information of 1,300 people. The Department issued an "Intent to Terminate Employment" notice to one worker and terminated a second, temporary employee. Information gathered during the Department's week-long internal review will be handed over to the Utah Attorney General's Office on Wednesday July 21st for possible legal action. It appears Gov. Herbert endorses this action.
"Workforce Services' staff members are carefully trained on the appropriate use and dissemination of private data as required by federal laws and regulations," DWS Executive Director Kristen Cox said. "We carefully protect the personal information that we gather, and take very seriously breaches of that public trust. The list contained inaccurate information and undermines the need to maintain confidentiality and adhere to the due process rules of our country."
Earlier there were concerns that as many as eight additional DWS employees may have been involved. But in a separate interview, Gov. Herbert debunked that notion. He stated that the actual act of breaching the database, going through a very sophisticated and methodical approach to breach security protocols, was limited to two people. He also rejected the contention put forth by Utah Minuteman Chairman Eli Cawley that the employees who compiled the list may have been whistle-blowers and that they should be immune from prosecution, explaining that whistle-blowing applies to revealing illegal or unethical activity. The people on the list were accessing government services legally.
Under Utah law, it is a misdemeanor, punishable by six months in prison and a $1,000 fine, to release protected information. If a record-keeper steals state records, it could be a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The law does have a whistle-blower protection provision. But Gov. Herbert has said it also is against federal law to violate the privacy of the information in the databases, which is why the Federal government is also preparing to get involved.
The news was broken just after Gov. Herbert's roundtable discussion on illegal immigration in which 31 influential Utahns, including lawmakers, members of the faith-based community, minority groups, law enforcement, business leaders and others were in attendance. In preparation for this roundtable, the LDS Church issued an updated statement on immigration calling for lawmakers to to find solutions in the best interests of all whose lives will be impacted by their actions. Gov. Herbert called for reason to guide discussions and action on illegal immigration in the State. He wants to see Utah take a thoughtful and rational approach to immigration reform, and in his opening remarks, spelled out five guiding principles to be considered. First and foremost among them is respect for the law.
Reaction: As of this post, 247 comments have been posted to the KSL story, and at least half the respondents support the two fired workers. Some have even unofficially offered them jobs. Those that support DWS' action remind us that a major part of their job was to keep confidential information confidential; they knowingly and willingly failed to do their job properly. Furthermore, some of the people on the list of 1,300 proved to be legal residents.
The state really had no viable alternative to terminating the two employees, although the loss of their jobs is punishment enough. How would you feel if some bureaucrat released your personal information to the public without your permission?
If there is one fringe benefit to this entire sequence, it is that maybe public officials will finally recognize how serious ordinary Americans really are about solving the illegal immigration problem. As Canadian free speech activist Paul Fromm would say, when we refuse to deal with the men of the word, we will have to deal with the men of the sword. 100,000 illegal aliens in Utah is simply UNACCEPTABLE!