For years, officials say Erie County Department of Social Services employees have been improperly disposing of residents' personal information. Highly confidential documents weren't put in locked bins, but bins that could be easily opened.
"The documents that they considered to be so confidential and so private, they were basically dumping in open boxes and open bins where anyone could have had access to them," said Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.
Mychajliw says his office uncovered the problem during an audit of the department.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz says he found out what was happening in early April, and put a stop to it right away. He says there's no evidence any county residents were victims of identity theft.
"There was an issue. This as best as we can tell dated back many, many years. It may have started before the Collins Administration, the Giambra Administration. That doesn't justify what our Social Service Department did," said Poloncarz.
Mychajliw says, there's no way of knowing if information was stolen because the papers were stored in the basement, then taken to the loading dock - where anyone could have accessed them. Right now, he says his office has residents' information that was found in open bins. He wants the D.S.S to notify any Erie County taxpayers whose information may have been compromised.
"The law and the regulations are crystal clear. The Department of Social Services - they're responsible for notifying the state, and notifying the federal government of this breach in security," said Mychajliw.
Poloncarz says by keeping the information, the Comptroller's Office is also breaching security. He wants everything returned to the D.S.S., because he says no one else has the right to it.
"What we certainly need to know now is whose information the Comptroller's Office had, so we can let those people know that this information may have been improperly viewed by the Comptroller's Office," he said.
Poloncarz says all personal documents are now being properly disposed of, and county employees not following protocol could be fired.