A Cromwell fire chief is taking the fall after the social security numbers of 20 fire district members were left out in the open.
In October, during routine cleaning, a firefighter stumbled upon sensitive information, including the salaries of 20 Cromwell fire district members.
The fire district said the information was left out in the open by an outside auditing firm.
The firefighter took a photo of the social security numbers and brought it to the chief. He also sent it to his local union president, who brought it to the chief’s attention.
Both firefighters asked to remain anonymous, and in trying to accommodate that request, Cromwell Fire Chief Stephen Pendl lied about where he got the photo, allegedly saying it was slipped under his door. He also asked his secretary to say the same.
A police investigation started, as officials tried to determine how someone got ahold of the information.
Soon, Pendl’s lies were uncovered, and the fire district did an independent investigation that ended in a 200-page report.
In the report, it states “Chief Pendl's actions were...unethical...inappropriate...and failed to set an appropriate example for the membership of the Department.”
“It's so easy to steal someone's identity and make a mess out of their life,” said Janet Maune, who is a human resources expert.
Pendl resigned last month, but the Board of Fire Commissioners did give the former chief a severance package that includes his $85,000 salary, benefits, and a year of health insurance.
Residents said they have mixed feelings.
“I don't want to see anyone lose their job. It seems like there's more to it, than what's going on,” said Frank Carta, of Cromwell.
Three firefighters involved were all suspended.
The one who took the photo got four days, while two more got three days suspension.
Pendl’s assistant was also disciplined.
The auditing firm that left the document in the open has agreed to pay for identity theft protection for the 20 members for the entire year.
Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.