Lynda Perkins, the coupon searcher who found sensitive personal documents in a county recycling bin would like to know, “What happened to the documents that had been in the bin that was emptied?”
Perkins had originally discovered documents from the federal WIC (Women, Infant and Children) program in the county recycling bin on Sunday, Feb. 26. By Wednesday, Feb. 29, she discovered the bin had been emptied — but found fresh bundles of confidential documents with the personal identifying information of people who applied for county programs in the same recycling bin.
“Sunday the bin was full and when I went down Wednesday, the bin was empty and more files dumped,” she said.
The county has launched an investigation of the disposal of the confidential information in apparent violation of federal law.
As a result, county officials this week refused to release any additional information pending the outcome of an investigation by the county’s insurance company — Arizona County’s Insurance Pool (ACIP).
“This matter is currently being investigated by ACIP and at this time we have been advised to release no further information pending their conclusion so that we do not hamper their investigation,” wrote Supervisor Tommie Martin in an e-mail. “Once the investigation is concluded, and they are giving us no timeline for this, I will be able to share with you that which is public information.”
Instead of answers, Perkins received a call from ACIP for a deposition on what Perkins found.
“I was on the phone for an hour,” she said, “they grilled me on the details.”
In a March 8 interview, Supervisor Martin questioned what sort of liability the county had regarding people “Dumpster diving.”
“It’s dangerous for the public to go into a Dumpster, they could get hurt,” she said.
Chamber of Commerce manager John Stanton did say that the recycling bins have a sign on them prohibiting the public from entering the bin.
County officials believe all files have been recovered, but Perkins’ assertions shed doubt.
Martin believes “it (the documents) was all the same banker’s box.”
During a March 8 interview, Gila County Health Director Michael O’Driscoll said he wanted to assure the citizens of Gila County that all files had been retrieved.
“When I was called out, all files had been retrieved immediately,” he said.
O’Driscoll denied knowledge of any documents found prior to Feb. 29 in that interview.
O’Driscoll did not return subsequent calls seeking a response to Perkins’ account suggesting the county discarded confidential information at least twice.