BY LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — The public posting of town bank statements that include account numbers has created a security crisis for the Town of Elizabethtown.
Town Supervisor Margaret Bartley said Wednesday that town officials thought they were removing bank-account numbers when someone requested copies of financial statements, but it turns out the account numbers are in more than one place on the documents.
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“The account number at the top of each statement was blacked out. All other financial data was intact.”
Copies of some of those financial records were then posted at the Elizabethtown Post Office, she said, and the bank-account numbers were visible at other places in the documents.
Items were circled on the financial statements and comments that were critical of town spending were added, but the person posting them did not sign his or her name, the supervisor said.
“We have a breach in financial security. We honor FOIL (State Freedom of Information Law) requests by blacking out account numbers. It turns out the numbers are embedded in details (on the statements). We have to cancel those six accounts for security.”
She said she went to the Post Office and took down the records when she learned what had happened.
“According to a U.S. Post Office employee, copies of the town bank records had been left at the Post Office in the public mailbox area for several days.
“The postal employee had disposed of this material, but it had reappeared the next day.”
Bartley said she called Town Attorney Robert Hafner at his Glens Falls office, and he told them what procedure to follow.
“We are holding an emergency town board meeting to cancel the accounts and open new ones.”
The session will take place at noon today at the Town Hall. It is open to the public.
“I’m stunned by this,” Bartley said. “We have to reprint checks. We have to monitor until all outstanding checks clear.”
ACCOUNTS TO CLOSE
Bartley said someone with the town’s bank-account numbers could empty the accounts with electronic transfers. She said she believes she knows who posted the records but would not identify the person without proof.
The town supervisor reported the situation to Champlain National Bank, where the accounts are kept, as well as State Police, the Essex County Treasurer’s Office, County Attorney Daniel Manning III and other town officials.
“I have been advised that all compromised accounts should be closed immediately and new accounts be established,” Bartley said.
“All outstanding checks will be honored, and the town will continue to meet its obligations. As chief financial officer of the Town of Elizabethtown, I am doing everything possible to insure the financial security of our town government.”
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