Criminal case against ex-IT employee raises questions about SLC security measures

Nov 1, 2021, 11:27 PM | Updated: Nov 5, 2021, 12:57 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City says it’s taking steps to protect sensitive information as prosecutors build their case against a former city IT worker accused of handing over names, numbers and the whereabouts of undercover officers to a sex-trafficking ring.

But city leaders remain tight-lipped about the exact changes they’re planning and the extent of the security breach. They’re also not saying whether any citizens’ personal information was compromised.

The city is facing scrutiny as some question why the employee had access to police and other databases — and whether the police department kept tabs on who was looking up those records.

“Even though he works for the city, he’s still an outsider to the police department. How is it that he accessed that, and how is it that he got in there so easily – if he in fact did?” said Chris Bertram, a retired deputy chief for the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office now working as a criminal defense investigator. One person’s ability to undermine a network of undercover operations, he added, is “really concerning.”

Chris Bertram

Patrick Kevin Driscoll, 50, is accused of providing the information in exchange for sex.

He was never an officer or an employee of the police department but had “full access to the police department as well as all city and law enforcement databases,” court documents say.

Mayor’s spokeswoman Lindsey Nikola told KSL in a prepared statement that “we want the city’s residents to know that additional measures are being taken to further assure the protection of any personal information that may exist in our systems.”

She did not elaborate on the steps being taken and did not provide answers to several questions from KSL Investigators, including whether the city regularly audited employees’ access to certain databases.

Driscoll faces seven felony charges, including three counts of obstructing justice and exploiting prostitution.

His attorney, Gregory Ferbrache, maintains his client and several other public employees had access to the information and the state’s version of events isn’t correct.

“Patrick Driscoll is being made a scapegoat,” Ferbrache said, adding that charging documents don’t make clear exactly which documents or databases prosecutors believe his client viewed.

Gregory Ferbrache, Patrick Driscoll’s defense attorney

“I find it very unusual that these very serious allegations have been made without more substance,” he continued. “I think there’s a reason for the lack of clarity in the charging documents, and it’s simply that Salt Lake City Police Department doesn’t know what employees are accessing.”

Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Police Chief Mike Brown declined interviews through separate spokespeople.

A request to interview the city’s attorney was also declined.

Prosecutors haven’t said exactly how or when they believe Driscoll obtained the details about the officers and their investigations. And the Utah Attorney General’s Office declined comment for this story.

But charging documents indicate Driscoll did so by scanning databases, Bertram said.

“It kind of spelled out that there was this database of undercover officers, which doesn’t make any sense to me,” Bertram said. “It should be the opposite: You should go looking and find nothing.”

The city hasn’t answered KSL’s question of whether a database of undercover officers exists.

Only a handful of employees in the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office knew who was working undercover on certain cases during Bertram’s time there, he told KSL-TV.

Many law enforcement agencies conduct regular audits of databases to determine who is logging in to obtain information and when, but the city has not answered questions about whether Driscoll was ever audited.

Nikola said the city hired Driscoll following a thorough background check in March 2019.

He was a network support administrator making about $54,300 a year, ranking in the second of three tiers of employees.

A job description says the role included providing software support, troubleshooting problems and maintaining computer systems, but does not mention duties tied to information that’s sensitive or pertaining to police investigations.

Network Support Admin II Job Description

Network Support Admin II Job Description by LarryDCurtis on Scribd

The city cut off Driscoll’s access to its IT systems and placed him on leave Oct. 20, concluding its own review and firing him on Oct. 29.

Driscoll is set to appear in court Tuesday for a detention hearing in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

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Criminal case against ex-IT employee raises questions about SLC security measures