A leading critic of the controversial TLA Pond View recycling center in Rumford discovered her name, address, age and social security number posted on the city of East Providence's website after complaining about after-hours operation. The information was up for nearly two weeks. Was it accidental or intentional? And who was responsible? Jim Hummel confronts the city manager to try and get some answers.
For years Omega Pond was a hidden jewel, an oasis for dozens of homes along the water's edge in the Rumford section of East Providence.
That all changed in 2006 when TLA Pond View began an expanded recycling operation that has resulted in hundreds of complaints from neighbors just across the pond.
An aerial view shows just how close the commercially-zoned operation is to the residential area. Those who live there say the sound - and dust - carry clearly across the water.
Durfee: ``My windows and doors stay closed when they're fully operating.''
Jo-Ann Durfee has led the charge against Pond View - complaining to anybody who will listen, and some who won't, about noise, dust and the owners operating at all hours of the day. She's all but abandoned using the deck on her split-level house just off Roger Williams Avenue.
Durfee: ``There are times, you know, where you could hear him operating at 4:30 in the morning, sometimes later in the evening. And he has set hours, but he doesn't abide by that.'
'The company, which had been mired in controversy from the start, had zoning and court battles before going into receivership a year ago. A fresh controversy erupted when DEM gave the owners a contract to clean up their own site, with strict hours of operation.
Durfee says she heard equipment on a Sunday morning in early July.
Durfee: ``The backhoe was going, the vehicle that waters down the dust to keep it down was operating.''
She had alerted her councilman, Jim Briden, who called the police. An officer eventually arrived and spoke with Durfee, but didn't take any official statement.
Durfee went on vacation the following week. When she returned a week later, she couldn't believe what she saw on the city's website, which posts the supporting documents for any issues coming before the council at the next meeting. The city had posted a witness report of the incident that day....
Durfee: ``But it also had an incident report with my name, my address, my date of birth and my full social security number listed on there.''
Hummel: ``And what did you think when you saw that?''
Durfee: ``I panicked because it was out there for 13 days. It was on two city websites and the city usually gives the East Providence Post and East Providence Patch a copy of the council docket.''
Harsch: ``There's no reason why a civil report - which is what it was, the police report on her call to the police - should have a Social Security number on it. Social Security numbers are not supposed to be used for identification.''
Veteran attorney William Harsch, who represents a citizens group fighting the Pond View operation, immediately called City Manager Peter Graczykowski to have the information taken down.
Harsch: ``Hopefully it was sloppy work somewhere, but there's enough bad feeling and enough relatively-hidden connections within the town of East Providence surrounding that operation at Pond View that I think it may have been intentional.''
Hummel: ``What was that like for you?''
Durfee: ``Who knows who has my information? Who knows who could have sat on their home computer and pulled off a copy of my credit report? Who knows if they sell my information? So the rest of my life I've got to look over my shoulder?''
Graczykowski told Durfee in a July 25th letter that the posting was an: `inadvertent error' and he was launching an investigation into how it happened.
Hummel: ``He says in late July we're launching an internal investigation - that's been six weeks. And what have you heard?''
Durfee: ``I have heard nothing.''
So we asked the city manager about it before last week's council meeting.
Hummel: ``I wanted to find out what the status of the investigation is into how Joanne Durfee's social security number got on a city website? Where does that stand?''
Graczykowski: ``I would refer that to our city solicitor.''
Hummel: ``You were the one who told her that you'd be doing the investigation or initiating it.''
Graczykowski: ``Right, I would refer that question to the city solicitor.''
City Solicitor Timothy Chapman told the Hummel Report the next day that while he was aware of the incident, Graczykowski did not include him in the review of what happened and had nothing more to offer us.
Hummel: ``The procedure to get stuff on, that something like that could happen, have you reviewed that in your role as city manager?''
Graczykowksi: ``Yes, we have reviewed it. And again I would refer your question to our city solicitor.''
Hummel: ``Why can't you talk?''
Graczykowski: ``Because it's an internal matter that has been investigated and communicated with the appropriate parties.''
Harsch: ``You're paying city employees to do their job and one of their jobs is to pay attention to the privacy of their citizens.''
Graczkowski's salary is $125,000 a year. Throw in family medical insurance, retirement, social security taxes, workers compensation and life insurance and his total compensation from the taxpayers is $177,096.
Hummel: ``So has anybody been disciplined, suspended, lost a paycheck?''
Gracyzkowski: ``We have revised our procedures and I would refer all the questions to the city solicitor in this matter.''
Hummel: ``Why can't you just answer the question. What kind of transparency is this? You're the city manager. And somebody's social security number got on a website.''
Graczykowski: ``Well that person is represented and so is the city and I would refer those questions, as I stated, to the city solicitor.''
Hummel: ``So you're going to lawyer up?''
Graczykowski: ``Thank you.''
We emailed Gracyzkowski the next day with follow up questions wanting to know how this could be prevented in the future. We received an automatic email message that he would be out of the office for the next week. He never contacted us directly but told Chapman, the solicitor, to answer our questions.
In an email late Tuesday Chapman told The Hummel Report ``The employees involved were counseled on the importance of protecting Personal Identifying Information'' and that a policy is being drafted to reiterate how to handle the information. He did not say whether anyone was disciplined.
Harsch: ``It feels like cover up and therefore it makes me think this is symptomatic of something else going on.''
Durfee: ``I do not have confidence somebody's going to be disciplined for this, when you have a city manager who also has a degree in law and he's reviewing this stuff he should have picked up on and not just sent it forward if he did his job. If he didn't even read it and sent it forward, then he didn't do his job either.''
Durfee turned down the city's offer for a year's worth of identity theft protection because she would have had to sign away her right to take legal action. So she bought the protection on her own: for $250.
Hummel: ``What does that say to the people of East Providence. You're going to hide behind a lawyer. C'mon.''
Graczykowski: ``As I stated previously we have looked into our procedure, they're in compliance and if you have further question....''
Hummel: ``Have you pinpointed it to somebody, some one person.''
Graczykowski: ``We have reviewed our procedures and they're in compliance.''
Hummel: ``In compliance with what?''
Graczykowski: ``In compliance with what we should or should not be releasing.''
Harsch: ``This is not over. I'm going to be seeking a meeting to discuss with him the fact that the more this goes on the less I like what I'm seeing. And I want to sit with him eyeball-to-eyeball and let him tell me what he feels the situation is. And not tell me Gee it was just a one-off error. If it was one a off-error prove it me. Show me that you've been in touch with the Police Department. Show me that somebody in authority in the Police Department has done some inquiries . Show me a report.''
In East Providence, Jim Hummel for The Hummel Report.