WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - There’s evidence a village mayor had access to personal information about COVID-19 patients in Jefferson County during the early days of the pandemic. It’s something a county lawmaker is calling a misuse of public trust.
We’ve obtained an email from a county leader, saying a village mayor knew information that should have been private.
But first a little background: since the COVID-19 pandemic began, county Public Health Service has kept track of who has the virus and where they live.
The addresses are flagged and sent to county dispatchers through a system called computer aided dispatch, or CAD.
The CAD system alerts first responders if they’re ever called to a COVID patient’s home. It’s all to make sure personnel wear protective equipment.
However, a village mayor apparently had information about some of the first COVID patients.
In a March 24 email titled "CAD system," county Legislature Chair Scott Gray reminds other county leaders about privacy laws. Gray says a village mayor "even knew there are 4 addresses flagged in your system, the CAD system, and went as far as telling me the street one was on."
It also states, "there were more than 30 searches for the information by a variety of people."
"There was some communication, cross-communication, about possible addresses that were listed for COVID so as a protection for first responders. So, we quickly rectified that," said Gray.
Although he doesn't know who obtained the data or why, county Legislator Jeremiah Maxon delivered a fiery message to fellow lawmakers this past Tuesday.
"We saw in our own county that police officers and government agents were willing to misuse their access to that database so that they could identify their neighbors who have the disease. The public needs to know. We know they accessed our database. We know they misused the public trust," said Maxon (R. - District 10).
Gray says Maxon went "a little too far" in his comments Tuesday. Maxon says he stands by what he said.
By the way, Maxon’s comments about data misuse came as county legislators considered a grant to purchase license plate readers. He opposes the surveillance of residents because the data could be misused, just as, he says, COVID data was misused.