CDs containing state workers' information missing in Nevada

November 11, 2007

Associated Press

Hundreds of CDs containing payroll information about state employees, including Social Security numbers, have either been lost or stolen over the last three years, state Personnel Director Todd Rich said.

Rich said his department sent a total of more than 13,000 CDs to 80 agencies for review every two-week pay period over the last three years. He said as many as 470 are still missing.

"We haven't had any notification from anybody that, `Hey, my identity has been stolen,'" Rich told the Nevada Appeal.

He said it would be up to Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto whether to issue a breach notification. If so, he said, it would be done by agencies with missing discs.

The system has been tightened to prevent unauthorized people from getting employee information, Rich added.

"It's on top of my list because we want to make sure foremost our employees' personal information is protected," said Rich, who assumed his position in May. "It concerns me greatly."

Under the new system, discs will be signed for and returned to the personnel department after each pay period, Rich said.

The CDs now require a password in order to read data, and employee identities will be better protected with a switch from Social Security numbers to a unique employee identification number.

"We want to make sure we get this cleaned up," he said.

The issue was raised by Jim Elste, a former state Department of Information Technology security manager, who says his efforts to prod the state to notify workers their personal information may have fallen into the wrong hands caused him to be fired.

He made the argument during hearings before a state hearing officer. Elste is appealing his termination, saying he's covered by whistleblower statutes.

Elste said he discovered in June that there was no system for tracking the CDS after they were sent and no system for getting them back or destroying them.

DOIT Director Dan Stockwell testified Elste was fired for poor management and lack of anger control.

Adminstrative Hearing Officer Bill Kockenmeister's ruling on the appeal is expected early next year.

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