A county treasurer is accused of dumping documents with sensitive personal information into a dumpster. And the accuser is a fellow elected official.
Payne County Assessor James Cowan showed News 9 pictures of the documents found in the dumpster on Tuesday. He even had some of the documents he had taken out of the dumpster by his staff. They clearly show they are from the Payne County Treasurer’s office, and do have social security numbers that have not been blacked out.
“Well first thing I thought about was, ‘This is easy for identity theft,’” said Cowan.
Cowan says a member of his staff found all the dumped documents and reported it to him. He says he can't believe these documents were not blacked out or shredded.
“I think it’s a blatant irresponsibility on her part to let documents like this be disposed of in that manner,” Cowan said.
As it turns out, the assessor’s office is located right across the hall from the treasurer’s office. So we took our concerns and information right to Payne County Treasurer, Bonita Stadler herself.
“I've been here 27 years,” said Stadler. “I don't do things that are irresponsible.”
Stadler says all the records she got rid of are old and a matter of public record, so there's no reason to shred or redact them.
“And if there is something there that shouldn't have been, trust me, it was truly inadvertently put in there,” said Stadler. “I can't even imagine what it could have been, because we do not deal with things that have social security numbers.”
So we showed her the pictures of what was found in the dumpster, including affidavit for purchase of tax assignment documents, with the social security numbers of people written right on them.
“Well there may have been something that we were not made aware of that was very, very old that I was not even aware was even in existence,” said Stadler.
Cowan says they use a shredding service in their office to get rid of their sensitive documents. He also pointed out a shredder, located on the 3rd floor, that the treasurer could use for free, but has chosen not to use.
Even this afternoon, News 9 found documents from the Payne County treasurer's office inside the dumpster.
Stadler tells News 9 they only dump records every seven to 10 years, and that she has a small staff and does not feel it would be a good use of resources to have someone with her staff spend hours shredding old records. But she says they will reassess their policy.
She tells News 9 she wished Cowan had come to her and showed her the documents, instead of taking the issue to the media and blasting it all over social media. She calls the move “politically motivated” since she endorsed Cowan’s opponent for the assessor’s spot.
Cowan is running for re-election. Stadler did not run for her position this time around, and is working together with the new treasurer until her term ends in 2015.
The Payne County District Attorney was made aware of what happened, but says he does not plan to file criminal charges since no criminal intent was shown in this case.
The State Auditor's Office was also contacted, and State Auditor Gary Jones says those records are a matter of public record, but should have been disposed of another way.