COMMENTARY: The trust of the community in their public servants is a sacred commodity, and it has been shaken hard by recent events in our office.
Four of our once-trusted colleagues stand accused of serious crimes, and a significant number of registered voters have reason to believe that their identities may have been used for illegal and pernicious reasons.
We have cooperated with the law-enforcement investigation from the moment we were notified, and we will lend our testimony and resources to the prosecution of these crimes.
Our partners on the law-enforcement side of this investigation have not yet released to us the names of the people whose data may have been compromised. As soon as we have that list, we will begin outreach to every single affected individual.
Our unwavering commitment is to the integrity of this office, and we will not tolerate unethical or illegal behavior within our ranks. To that end, some personnel actions have been executed, others are in process, and others may be initiated. County policy prevents us from saying more, but the short version is this: The tolerance capacity is zero.
We have begun a renewed push with our legislative delegation and the clerks’ affiliate of the New Mexico Association of Counties to bring New Mexico into alignment with the 46 other states that do not require a person’s full Social Security Number to process a voter registration. This vulnerability may have come to light in Doña Ana County, but it is present in all 33 New Mexico counties, and it must be eliminated statewide.
In 2009, the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office implemented security cameras to monitor vault traffic and access to sensitive areas of the office. For the past several months we’ve been working with the county’s Information Technology Department to evaluate additional security measures. That process is now being accelerated with an eye toward additional surveillance equipment and the possibility of computer-use monitoring.
Because the Clerk’s Office staff requires access to sensitive information during the course of their daily job functions, we will continue to implement training – enhanced when necessary and timely – about the consequences (both internal and external) of using that data for any purpose other than that for which it was intended as a function of efficient workflow.
In addition to enhanced security and training, going forward, each employee at every level of the office will sign an annual confidentiality contract that will be recorded in their respective personnel files.
We are actively reaching out to other governmental entities and the private sector to determine what – if any – additional best practices we can implement to further safeguard sensitive data and to enhance employee monitoring.
We will begin random audits of all notary public activities across the office to ensure that each notary public on our staff is complying with the spirit and letter of the law in each case when they commit their seals and signatures to official documents.
The direct office extensions to reach us are (575) 525-6156 (Ellins) and (575) 525-6134 (Krahling). We will accept all calls from concerned parties, and we will personally return all calls that roll to voicemail each business day. We’re prepared for the concerned calls, the angry calls and the inquisitive calls.
We are absolutely committed to making this right, and to making the hard decisions and the time that such a commitment entails.