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Investigation of Monroeville emergency system to wrap up this month

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A local investigation of Monroeville's emergency dispatch computer system was expected to wrap up by the end of this month, attorneys said at the May 9 council meeting.

Monroeville officials hired Pittsburgh law firm Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote to conduct an internal investigation in response to an inquiry by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Police Chief Steve Pascarella said he filed a complaint with the HHS in August 2012, claiming that a change to the security settings of the 911 database enabled unauthorized people to access patient information that is protected by federal law.

Pascarella said he — along the software company — developed the initial security profiles when the system was installed. He said that the security settings were later changed by an unknown administrator.

Pascarella last week discredited an insinuation from the Health and Human Services Department in March, that Pascarella accused former police chief Doug Cole of creating unsecure usernames and passwords that led to a potential violation.

Former Information Technology Director Tina Mular said Pascarella installed the computer system that is under investigation.

“He (Pascarella) was empowered to make all the decisions about how the software would operate and who would have access to it,” said Mular, who read a statement during a Monroeville Council meeting on May 9.

She said the system has extensive logging capabilities and that “it should be very easy to examine this log, both to see who created the accounts and clarify if sensitive information had been accessed.”

HHS launched an investigation in March and instructed the municipality to provide several documented items, including the outcome of “any investigation (the municipality) conducted in to the reported incident.”

Attorney Harlan Stone, of Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, said last week that the law firm advised Monroeville officials that more than just protected health information could have been divulged.

According to a public notice released by the law firm in April, bank accounts and the credit profiles of those who called Monroeville 911 in 2012 and January 2013 might be at risk for possible tampering.

The data system being investigated was shut down in February, officials said.

The law firm is charging Monroeville $275 per hour for each partner working on the case, $185 per hour for each associate and $125 per hour for each paralegal, according to an email sent from Dickie McCamey and Chilcote to the municipality on April 1.

There are about five or six attorneys in every meeting and on every conference call involving the investigation, municipal Manager Lynette McKinney said.

“We have a whole team of attorneys that are working,” McKinney said at the May 9 council meeting.

Pascarella said last week that a letter from HHS to Monroeville incorrectly paraphrased the complaint he filed last year. He said he did not accuse former police chief Cole of creating unsecured usernames and passwords.

Pascarella said that when he learned of the issue, he told Cole about it before he filed the complaint with the federal government. Cole has disputed that claim..

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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