Sumner fires temporary court clerk for sending herself city data on 3,600 people

Staff writerDecember 27, 2013 

The city of Sumner has fired a temporary employee after she sent information about 3,600 people, mostly residents, to her personal email. 

City spokeswoman Carmen Palmer told The News Tribune on Friday that an investigation is under way on the incident and the employee, who only worked for the city as a part-time municipal court clerk for nine days since being hired in October.

Another staff member noticed the email containing a large amount of city data on Dec. 16. Further investigation revealed that the temporary employee had sent hundreds of forms, background information and municipal court lists to her personal email.

The files included lists of potential jurors and defendants, with names, addresses and dates of birth for about 3,600 people, mostly Sumner residents. No financial information was included in the files.

The city removed the employee’s access to city systems and reported the incident to police. 

“While we’re thankful this incident did not compromise anyone’s financial information, any personal information leaving our control gives us great concern,” Police Chief Brad Moericke said in a news release from the city.

Upon questioning from detectives, the employee said she wanted to learn more about her job and planned to review the information at home to become more proficient and familiar with Sumner’s systems, according to the release.

“We’re hoping, as she claimed, that this was just a stupid mistake made by an overzealous individual, but we’re not taking any chances,” Moericke said in the release. “We are treating this incident with the full care we give to any potential crime.”

The employee has served in several other municipal courts in the Puget Sound region and was filling in for a regular employee who was on extended family leave.

Palmer said the city reacted quickly and is carefully reviewing all the information in light of the recent high-profile security breach involving the national retailer, Target. Each individual who had information included in the data will receive a letter from the city.

Sumner police have confiscated the employee’s personal computers and a computer forensic detective is analyzing the system to review whether the employee viewed any of the documents, according to the release.

The city is not releasing the employee’s name, pending a review by the Pierce County prosecutor. Palmer said Friday it is unknown if charges will be filed. 

“While the controls worked to quickly discover the breach of information, the City will check if there are any other safeguards possible to keep a similar incident from happening in the future,” the release states.

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682
Follow Kari on Twitter: @KariPlog

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