Sumner residents getting letters because of data breach

by: Deborah Horne Updated:


SUMNER, Wash. - Some 3,600 people will soon get an unwelcome letter from the city of Sumner alerting them to a security breach. 

A temporary municipal court clerk is accused of transferring the residents' information to her personal computer.  She said she was doing it so she could learn more about the Sumner Municipal Court way of doing things. 

But people we talked to aren't buying it.

"Target, Sumner.  Target, Sumner.  It's happening everywhere."

That's what came to lifelong Sumner resident Kathleen Loeffler's mind on this quiet Sunday in her hometown.  Another day, another report of potential identity theft.  And this time it is very close to home. A temporary court clerk, accused of emailing to her home computer a trove of data that included the names, addresses and dates of birth of thousands of people, most of them, Sumner residents.

"You just can't take home people's personal information," said Loeffler. "And if you work in any sort of computer-based job, you know that."

The temp was hired in October as a clerk in the Sumner court. But the court meets infrequently, so she worked just nine days.  On Dec. 16th, the IT people and the clerk of the court discovered the breach. 

Sumner spokeswoman Carmen Palmer says it was the size of the data and that it included some individuals' personal information that set off alarm bells.

"They are people who one way or the other had to have been with the court as a potential juror or defendant," Palmer said.

Now the city is sending letters of apology to assure them that the clerk hadn't yet used the information.

"No financial information was included," said Palmer.  "We think we caught it in time; that she didn't open these files."

Still, it is troubling to Sumner residents.

"You know she could say I took this home to learn about it and, and one of her friends say 'Oh, I can help you with some of this,' " said Ron Studebaker, who has lived in Sumner since 1971.   "Who knows? You just don't know."

City officials estimate it will cost about $1,000 to send out 3,600 letters, money they may try to recoup.

And they are still investigating the case. They will turn the results over to the Pierce County prosecutor.  He will decide whether the former clerk will be charged.