Tuesday, June 12, 2018

County hit with $400,000 claim for release to Indy

Posted By on Tue, Jun 12, 2018 at 3:53 PM

  • Photos courtesy El Paso Sheriff's Office
A claim for $400,000 against the El Paso County Sheriff's Office by a husband and wife who work for that office has been rejected, with the county blaming the misstep that gave rise to the claim on human error and asserting it could successfully defend the county against a lawsuit.

The May 16 demand letter by Janet and William Huffor, who serve as Sheriff Bill Elder's chief of staff and as a lieutenant, respectively, stems from the county's inadvertent release on April 16 to the Colorado Springs Independent of the Huffors' job application records by the county without red
Janet Huffor
  • Janet Huffor
acting certain private information, such as their Social Security numbers.

(The letter and county response were requested under the Colorado Open Records Act by the Gazette, and provided to the Independent by the county.)

The letter alleges the county violated the Huffors' constitutional rights by disclosing that information. Not only did the county disclose certain information that the Huffors say should have been protected, but the county didn't advise the Huffors it had been disclosed, the letter states.

The letter goes on to threaten the filing of a lawsuit seeking damages of $400,000 and a move to "prosecute in good faith a lawsuit against Ms. Zubeck and/or the Colorado Springs Independent requesting a permanent injunction requiring the destruction of the Huffors' personnel files."

Read the letter here:
In response, the county tells the Huffors' attorney Erin Jensen in a June 12 letter the demand is denied. It says the release was done "in error" and that "upon learning of the release from Ms. Pam Zubeck, First Assistant County Attorney Diana May contacted Ms. Zubeck, told her that the release was in error, and requested that the email containing the information be deleted."

The Independent confirmed the email had been destroyed. A subsequent investigation found the release was not intentional, malicious or deliberate, the county's letter says. The letter goes on to label the $400,000 demand "extraordinary and unsupported" and that no documentation was provided to substantiate that such damages were incurred.

Read the county's letter to the Huffors here:
"To be clear," says Indy News Editor J. Adrian Stanley, "it was the Indy who called the issue to the attention of the county almost immediately upon receipt of the unredacted documents. 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. The documents in question were destroyed."

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