My biggest fear about the personal information we found in the dumpster of the BMV parking lot in Farlawn (see story: BMV Investigation Part 1 and BMV Investigation Part 2 isn't that the items were tossed out ... but that the best BMV explanation is that they knew it was happening .. and did nothing but blame the customers.
For starters, this is one of those topics that hits all of us because we all get license plates and drivers licenses.
The story actually fell into my lap from another local business owner who found some of the documents blowing around in the parking lot. The owner called the state and then called me in the newsroom; I just happened to beat the state folks to the scene. When I saw the info on the documents, my jaw hit the floor. When the business owner pointed to the dumpster from which the documents had originally blown away, I had to look inside .. and there were more of them. Lots more. Moments after I collected the documents, a state BMV supervisor showed up and was surprised to say the least to see me standing by the dumpster.
Later the local BMV sent over a spokesperson, the deputy registrar's son. I guess I expected the spokesperson to say that this was a big mistake and the documents shouldn't have ended up in the dumpster. Instead, he admitted that those types of documents are tossed in the trash every day. He blamed the customers themselves claiming they leave the documents in the BMV lobby trash can and therefore disposing of the personal documents is "not our responsibility." It was almost as if he was saying, "they get what they deserve if they don't pay attention." What kind of customer service is that?
Even if you buy that explanation, wouldn't you expect clerks to at least make an effort to better dispose of those documents? Wouldn't you expect them to at least mention to customers not to toss them in the public trash?
The state investigators who are looking at our documents don't seem to buy that explanation. For starters, there were shredded documents mixed in with the un-shredded documents that we found so that would suggest that the trash came from behind the counter and not a public trash container in the lobby. Second, the investigators tell me that some of the documents we found aren't available to the public so they wouldn't be in a public trash can anyway.
The agents from the Dept. of Public Safety who I've met over the last few days have been top-notch. Very thorough and professional. They have been quick to respond (arriving at our office in less than two hours after we called them) and proactive in stopping the bleeding by sending an email to all 200+ registrars in Ohio letting them know what's happened in Fairlawn and reminding them to safeguard the public's information. They've also begun calling the 30 folks whose information we found in the dumpster five days ago.
Again, I keep coming back to the idea that BMV clerks knew that the documents were out there in the trash (for how long this has been happening we don't know) and felt like, "oh well. Tough." Makes you wonder what other information is floating around out there, eh?