Attention, state employees: Before discarding your state-owned desk, please clear out your ammo, those love letters from co-workers and any order forms for porn.
State surplus property officials sounded this unusual alarm in a memo sent earlier this month: “Confidential Data is being shipped to surplus. Please help us protect you, your staff and your agency!”
The warning came as officials in charge of the state’s castaways saw a rash of risque and private documents turning up in obsolete desks and filing cabinets.
Some of the finds were potentially risky: bank statements, a birth certificate and data filled with Social Security numbers. Some – photocopies of obscene jokes – were embarrassing. Others, such as forms ordering adult movies, were just plain concerning.
The memo, written Feb. 8, ticked through recent discoveries:
“Among the most recent finds have been documents that contain personal information such as social security numbers, medical records and banking records, all of which were for both state employees and private citizens. Recently, we have found order forms for adult films with an employee’s name on them, love letters between coworkers, boxes of ammunition, birth certificates, financial data, social security numbers, NCDL’s & State issued ID’s and printed jokes of an obscene nature.”
The problem: careless cleaning efforts by state employees. State regulations require public employees to clear out and dispose of sensitive documents before shipping the discards to surplus officials.
The State Surplus Property Agency acts as a sort of auction house or thrift store for items the state no longer needs. Items from dump trucks to snow plows, from bookshelves to wooden pallets, are sold to the public.
Every day, desks and cabinets, electronics and appliances that are worn out or no longer needed arrive at the state surplus facilities in Raleigh. Last year, the agency sold $21 million worth of inventory.
Mark Edwards, state Department of Administration deputy secretary in charge of the surplus operation, said the unwanted material has been trickling in of late, prompting officials to send the stern reminder. The memo included pictures of some of staff’s findings: a smattering of bullets over a pile of reports in a criminal investigation; the index of an evidence envelope; and a request for an amended birth certificate. Some of the files had slipped behind drawers.
“When a mistake is made, we are the backstop,” Edwards said. “But this is not exciting.”
Edwards said that, luckily, the staff was good at catching the neglected items before a member of the public purchased the furniture.
Not so lucky for the employees who hoarded the compromising documents: Surplus officials summoned their bosses to collect the materials.
Locke: 919-829-8927 or @MandyLockeNews