SALT LAKE CITY – Salt Lake City says it takes action to protect sensitive information as prosecutors frame their case against former city computer scientist accused of handing over names, numbers and whereabouts of undercover agents to a sex trafficking ring.
But city leaders remain tight-lipped about the exact changes they predict and the extent of the security breach. They also don’t say whether citizens’ personal information has been compromised.
The city is under close scrutiny due to questions as to why the employee had access to police and other databases – and whether the police department kept tabs on who was looking these files.
âEven though he works for the city, he’s still a stranger to the police department. How come he got into it, and how come he got in so easily – if he did? said Chris Bertram, a retired deputy head of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, who now works as a criminal defense investigator. A person’s ability to undermine a network of undercover operations, he added, is “of real concern”.
Patrick Kevin Driscoll, 50, is accused of providing information in exchange for sex.
He was never an officer or employee of the police department, but had “full access to the police department as well as all city and law enforcement databases,” according to court documents.
Mayor’s spokeswoman Lindsey Nikola told KSL in a prepared statement that “we want residents of the city to know that additional steps are being taken to further ensure the protection of any personal information that may exist in our systems.” .
She did not specify the measures taken and did not provide answers to several questions from KSL investigators, including whether the city regularly checked employee access to certain databases.
Driscoll faces seven counts of felony, including three counts of obstructing justice and exploiting prostitution.
His lawyer, Gregory Ferbrache, maintains that his client and several other officials had access to the information and that the state’s version of events is not correct.
“Patrick Driscoll is becoming a scapegoat,” Ferbrache said, adding that the prosecution documents do not specify exactly which documents or databases prosecutors believe his client viewed.
“I find it very unusual that these very serious allegations were made without more substance,” he continued. “I think there’s a reason for the lack of clarity in the charge documents, and it’s just that the Salt Lake City Police Department doesn’t know what the employees are accessing.”
Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Police Chief Mike Brown declined interviews through separate spokespersons.
A request for an interview from the town’s lawyer was also denied.
Prosecutors have not said exactly how or when they believe Driscoll obtained the details of the officers and their investigations. And the Utah attorney general’s office declined to comment for this story.
But prosecution documents indicate that Driscoll did so by scanning databases, Bertram said.
âThat kind of explained that there was this database of undercover agents, which doesn’t make sense to me,â Bertram said. “It should be the opposite: you should go and find and find nothing.”
The city did not respond to KSL’s question whether there is a database of undercover agents.
Only a handful of employees in the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office knew who was working undercover on some cases during Bertram’s time there, he told KSL-TV.
Many law enforcement agencies conduct regular database audits to determine who is logging in for information and when, but the city has not answered questions on whether Driscoll has ever been audited.
Nikola said the city hired Driscoll after a thorough background check in March 2019.
He was a network support administrator and earned around $ 54,300 per year, ranking second of three employee levels.
A job description indicates that the role included providing software support, troubleshooting problems and maintaining computer systems, but does not mention duties related to sensitive information or relating to police investigations.
Network Support Administrator II Job Description
The city cut Driscoll’s access to his computer systems and put him on leave on October 20, concluding his own review and firing him on October 29.
Driscoll is due in court Tuesday for a detention hearing in Salt Lake City 3rd District Court.
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