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Callers to Monroeville 911 warned personal info may be at risk

| Tuesday, April 23, 2013, 3:32 p.m.

People who called Monroeville's dispatch center with emergencies in recent months should check their bank accounts and credit reports for possible tampering, an investigator warned on Tuesday.

Attorney William P. Bresnahan II, hired by the municipality, is notifying people who interacted with dispatchers, the police department, fire department or EMS since 2012 that personal information “may have been compromised and accessed by persons not authorized to receive that information.”

Though investigators don't know whether protected information was misused, driver's license numbers, names and dates of birth could be at risk for identity theft if someone provided that information to dispatchers or police, Bresnahan said.

He would not say how many people called the dispatch center and might be affected. Investigators could make that information available next week, he said.

Monroeville hired Bresnahan of Downtown-based Dickie, McCamey and Chilcote to head a local, third-party investigation that is part of a federal investigation by a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services.

HHS received a complaint in August from police Chief Steve Pascarella, then the assistant chief. Pascarella said former Chief Doug Cole, now a sergeant with the force, created unsecure universal usernames and passwords for the Monroeville emergency database. That enabled anyone with the sign-on information to anonymously access personal information that should be protected by law, according to the letter.

Pascarella shut down access to the database at each of the EMS/fire companies in February, when he became interim chief.

Local investigators will send results of their investigation to federal officials, Bresnahan said.

Knowingly obtaining or disclosing a person's identifiable health information could be a crime punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and a year in prison.

The alert surprised some Monroeville residents.

“When you're calling 911, that's not something you're going to think about,” resident Toni Ducar said.

Mayor Greg Erosenko said the public notice was released prematurely.

“I'm concerned for the residents, being alerted that way, even before the investigation is done,” Erosenko said.

But Manager Lynette McKinney said the municipality is required by federal law to notify the public as part of the investigation.

“The investigation is moving forward and we are hopeful to have more information soon,” McKinney said in an email this week. “This situation is being taken very serious.”

Kyle Lawson is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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