Garden City Mayor Randy Walker is apologizing to the residents in the wake of the discovery of confidential documents in a dumpster outside of the Department of Public Services building.
“I want to apologize to the residents of Garden City,” Walker said. “And, I want to thank the resident who brought it to our attention.”
It was resident Anthony Manetta who brought the situation to the attention of the city council at its meeting last Monday.
It was the second time since July that Manetta noticed city papers when he went to dispose of his papers in the recycling dumpster. Garden City doesn’t have curbside recycling so residents have to cart their recyclables to the Dumpster.
The first time Manetta pulled out a stack out and showed them to Councilman Dave Fetter who packaged them up and gave them to Garden City Acting City Manager Robert Muery. Water bills, tax statements, inspection reports were among these items as well as empty envelopes with residents’ return address labels.
During his most recent trip to the recycling, Manetta found tax statements and water bills with names, addresses and phone numbers. There were checking accounts, with names, bank locations, savings accounts and reportedly routing numbers. Some information could be considered public record, others not.
“What is your shredding policy?” Manetta asked council. He appeared to take them by surprise as he launched into what he found.
Walker asked him to hand over the papers to Muery. The papers sat next to Muery during the meeting, and at one point, Bettis left her seat to look through them.
Walker said measures are being taken to improve procedures. An employee meeting was held on Tuesday to discuss the situation. He added that the city took immediate action and learned that some classified information ended up in the recycling unit.
Garden City also employees went through all the recycling bins and shredded sensitive material.
Walker believes the situation won’t happen again.
On Thursday, Garden City Clerk/Treasurer Allyson Bettis said most of the material was information that was “public record” and could be found on the internet. A couple items should not have been discarded in that manner. She declined to say what those items were and how the information contained could be misused.
Both Walker and Bettis noted that residents themselves must be careful about throwing in their own documents, containing personal information, because the recycling Dumpster is accessible to everyone. The documents turned in contained some items that had been disposed of by residents and not by the city.
Bettis said that the usual operation is to shred sensitive, classified material while other material is recycled in an effort to be “green,” or environmentally friendly.
“We will be shredding more,” Bettis said. “We have shredders here.”
She added that the city also uses a shredding company which comes by periodically.
The city will be taking shredding still further as Bettis strives to organize a first time and an as yet to be scheduled Community Shredding Day when residents can drop off material to be shredded.
Bettis said that the materials in the first batch could be considered public record, and both she and Walker said residents tossed some material into the Dumpster without taking care to consider the potential consequences.
Source: Sue Buck. October 2013. www.hometownlife.com