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Utah moves to fire 2 over immigrants data list

By Phil Gast, CNN
  • Utah agency takes action against workers believed to have leaked list
  • Investigation of data leak will be forwarded to the state attorney general
  • List of purported illegal immigrants was recently leaked to media and government offices
  • "The list contained inaccurate information," agency chief says; 8 other workers cleared

(CNN) -- The Utah Department of Workforce Services has moved to fire two employees believed to have created and distributed a list containing personal information of 1,300 purported illegal immigrants, officials said Tuesday.

The agency terminated a temporary worker and issued an "intent to terminate employment" notice to the other, spokesman Dave Lewis said. The latter career employee is on paid administrative leave pending a hearing, he said.

Information from a completed internal review of the data leak will be given to the state's attorney general Wednesday for possible legal action, the department said.

Meanwhile, the agency cleared eight other employees questioned in connection with the list, Lewis said.

"Workforce Services' staff members are carefully trained on the appropriate use and dissemination of private data as required by federal laws and regulations," Kristen Cox, executive director of the agency, said in a statement. "We carefully protect the personal information that we gather, and take very seriously breaches of that public trust. The list contained inaccurate information and undermines the need to maintain confidentiality and adhere to the due process rules of our country."

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said on CNN's "American Morning" on Monday that he expects to launch a formal investigation into the data leak soon. A spokesman for Shurtleff said Tuesday that the department will be fair.

"The fact they [the employees] are fired has no bearing on the investigation," said Scott Troxel, deputy communications director.

The list was anonymously distributed last week to media and government offices across the state, CNN affiliate KSTU-TV reported. An accompanying letter from "Concerned Citizens of the United States" insisted that those on the list should be deported immediately.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert told CNN's John King on Friday night that the 1,300 people have Hispanic names. Lewis indicated Tuesday that some on the list are citizens and others are noncitizens with work permits.

Shurtleff said the alleged crimes may have broken state and federal privacy laws, and some may have been felonies, so if appropriate, there could be a multilevel investigation. He added that crimes may have been committed not only in generating and preparing the list, but also in how the list was used. Some of the alleged illegal immigrants listed have reported harassment since their names appeared on the list.

"Clearly, it's not even meant as a blacklist. It's more like a hit list. It is, I think, to put people at fear, to terrorize, to get people mobilized to do things. The fact is, the names on that list are also innocent until proven guilty, and we're finding that some of those names ... are here legally," Shurtleff said.

Lewis said the Department of Workforce Services will look at its auditing procedures to see if such a leak can be prevented in the future.

"The vast majority of our employees are dedicated and doing a good job," Lewis said.