PBSP staff prevail in personnel file breach suit

Aug 1st, 2012 | By | Category: Employee Abuse, Prisons & Confinement, Spotlight
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Prison purportedly adhering to law in bungle’s aftermath

CDCR asserts it is no big deal inmates had confidential personnel file information on 64 staff in their possession.

Prison workers settle lawsuit

Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit against the state for exposing employee personnel information to Pelican Bay State Prison inmates.

The settlement last week came after five years of litigation stemming from two incidents in 2006 when the prison allowed inmates to help dispose of files, some of which held personnel records of employees, and kept them in an unsecured area inmates could access.

Information from at least 64 employees — ranging from wardens to correctional officers and including social security numbers, driver license numbers and home addresses — were found in the possession of inmates.

The settlement awarded a total of $175,000 to 23 plaintiffs to pay for credit-monitoring services and court costs…

“Since the lawsuit was filed they basically fought it tooth and nail every possible way; even going as far as the appellate court and that was rejected,” said George Mavris, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “Following the eve of trial, we ended up settling the case.”

The suit was filed on the grounds that CDCR violated the Information Practices Act, was negligent and inflicted emotional distress. It was not filed as a way to gain monetary benefit, but to change Pelican Bay’s policy for handling personnel information, Mavris said…

CDCR attorneys’ main stance was that there was no evidence to show actual harm resulting from a “brief exposure or potential exposure” of personnel information and the CDCR could not be held accountable for the inmates’ actions, court documents indicate…(Full text at The Triplicate)

Paco finds it remarkable CDCR would fight this tooth-and-nail for 5 years when the violation of the law was so clear and harm so real–The State wasted untold funds fighting the inevitable until the 11th hour. After all that, each of the 23 who pursued the case will receive $7,608.69, most of which will undoubtedly go to attorneys.

Meanwhile, no one was held responsible for giving inmates access to private, personal and personnel information.

On the up side, the plaintiff’s attorney reports Pelican Bay has changed its procedures as a result of the suit. Five years and all that money just to get state managers to comply with state law!

In the future, PBSP staff whose rights have been trampled may want to consider a hunger strike–It only took 3 weeks for CDCR to roll over for the last one. -

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4 Comments to “PBSP staff prevail in personnel file breach suit”

  1. Keeley A.Stevens, Sgt. (Retired) says:

    This reminds me of my early days in CDC and I was at DVI. I was ALWAYS fighting them over violations of the Information Practices Act. This was in the mid 80’s and at that time, when you called in sick, the Watch Sgt. would fill out a form that said why you were sick and give it to the inmate clerk who would make up the vacancy sheet. I filed a complaint with The Office of Information Practices on that one and on one more. I went into IST and wanted to review my file. An inmate clerk went to the file cabinet, pulled my file out and gave it to me. As I reviewed it I noticed my home address listed in the back of the file. I brought it to the Lt.’s attention and, being the arrogant “person” that he was, he stated: “Inmates HAVE handled these files, they DO handle these files and they will CONTINUE to handle these files! We are not going to hire a free person to come in and handle these files! Do what you have to do!”

    After I filed a formal complaint with The Office of Information Practices a long drawn out “battle” occurred between the attorney’s for CDC and the attorneys for The State Personnel Board Office of Information Practices”. When I transferred back to Folsom and had to check out, I went into IST and there was a free person handling those files! It was a small victory over a big arrogant IST Lieutenant!

  2. Fred says:

    According to The Triplicate, “The notification came after a prison informant told Pelican Bay staff that another inmate had approached him about selling social security numbers, Mavris said. An investigation was then conducted that included allowing the inmate to return to his workspace to see what he was going to do with the information, Mavris said”.

    I take it the crack prison Investigative team took control of the case and a thourough investigation was conducted. So where is the rest of the story? Specifically, how did the inmates get the contraband? Which staff member gave them access to it, and what happened to him/her/them? Is this a case of selective enforcement of prison rules and regulations? Exactly how many staff members are involved, and who are they?

    • Bob Walsh says:

      In the real world investigations are usually an attempt to get at the truth. In dealing with the state in general and CDCr in particular investigations are often used to cloud the truth and conceal the identity of malefactors.

  3. Bob Walsh says:

    It must seem incredible to someone who never worked within the system. Clearly the state should have simply said, “Yes, we screwed up. We will act promptly and effectively to mitigate the damage”, then should have done so. That would have showed some class. Presumably some suit’s squeeze was responsible for this screw-up and the suit didn’t want to get cut off, so it was fought tooth and nail to the bitter end. So they end up looking like chumps and costing the state a LOT more money. OF course, when it is OPM the suits don’t mind so much. Also, the really important thing is to avoid being BLAMED officially, whatever the facts of the matter are.