EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (The Gazette) - Two high-ranking El Paso County Sheriff's employees are threatening to sue the county for $400,000 over a clerical error that revealed personal information to a Colorado Springs weekly newspaper.
The county rejected their demand as "outrageous," contending that sheriff's Lt. Bill Huffor and his wife, Janet Huffor, the Sheriff's Chief of Staff, have failed to demonstrate that they've been harmed by a county employee mistakenly sending unredacted copies of their personnel files to the Colorado Springs Independent in response to an open records request.
When the county learned of the mistake, staff immediately contacted the reporter, Pam Zubeck, and The Independent confirmed that it would not publish the personal information and the email containing the details would be destroyed, County Attorney Amy Folsom said in a letter, dated Tuesday, responding to the Huffors' demand.
The same day of the accidental disclosure, the county also took the precaution of enrolling the Huffors in LifeLock, an identity theft protection service, and has agreed to pay for the service for three more years, Folsom said.
"While the release of this information is concerning and unfortunate, the facts of the matter are that it was simple human error in the workplace, and that once the error was known, the county took swift measures and corrected it." Folsom wrote.
The Huffors' attorney, Erin Jensen, alleged in a May 16 demand letter that the county violated the couple's right to privacy, and that the disclosure could threaten the couple's safety. Jensen added that Bill Huffor "routinely works operations against violent drug cartels" who could use the information to "exact revenge" against him or his family.
"The Independent is a professional news organization that understands privacy and disclosure laws and, regardless of the county's error, would not have violated the Huffors' privacy rights in any event," News Editor J. Adrian Stanley said in an article about the Huffors' demand.