Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Social Security Numbers Released; Fernandina Beach City Clerk Apologizes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Social Security Numbers Released; Fernandina Beach City Clerk Apologizes

Article excerpt

Byline: AMELIA A. HART

FERNANDINA BEACH -- The Social Security numbers of all city employees were inadvertently released this month in response to a public records request.

The revelation came at the end of Tuesday's City Commission meeting.

City Clerk Cassandra Mitchell took responsibility for the error and apologized.

"I apologize to the employees, the city commission and the taxpayers," Mitchell said. "My recent performance is unacceptable."

Mitchell on Wednesday said she felt very bad about the release of the numbers, including her own.

"It's very uneasy knowing your Social Security number is out there," she said.

The city has 267 employees, 190 full-time.

Mitchell said Wednesday the city received a request on Nov. 1 for the city's September and October payroll reflecting the gross pay.

The payroll information given to her by the finance department in order to respond to that request included employees' Social Security numbers, she said.

Mitchell said Wednesday she did not examine the information closely before she forwarded it in an e-mail, and didn't realize the data included employees' Social Security numbers.

City departments usually block out exempted information in the records they send to her when she asks for information to fulfill public records requests, she said.

Government employees' Social Security numbers are not public record under the state's Sunshine Laws.

"What I should have done is asked what those digits mean or abbreviations mean. I could have picked up the phone and asked, 'What is this? Is this exempted? What are all these numbers?' " Mitchell told commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioner Beano Roberts chastised Mitchell for releasing the Social Security numbers and for numerous grammatical errors in two documents she submitted to commissioners this week.

He also said he was concerned with Mitchell's management of the clerk's office.

"The issue about submitting the public records request that contains the Social Security number of every city employee, that kind of goes beyond inexcusable. …

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