The City of Evanston mailed out tax forms in envelopes that clearly displayed the Social Security numbers of the recipients, the Administration and Public Works Committee and the City Council were told on April 11. The error occurred in mid-March, but the City did not respond to complaints until just before the April 11 meeting, said retired Evanston police officer and president of the police pension board Timothy Schoolmaster.
City Chief Financial Officer Marty Lyons admitted that some of the envelopes containing Form 1095-C, a form used to prove employer-provided health insurance as part of Obamacare requirements, did not seal properly. “I was actually a recipient of one of these envelopes that did not seal,” he said, but admitted he did not notice whether his Social Security number was visible through the clear window on the front of the envelope. He said the City “just sent out a letter to all impacted parties” offering one year of identity theft prevention. The City will monitor who signs up for the service.
Mr. Schoolmaster did not accept the failure-to-seal comment, waving a plastic bag containing his 1095-C. “Mine was in the [Chicago] Tribune,” he said. “The picture was in the Tribune.” The whole Social Security number was visible though the see-through window of the envelope, as demonstrated in a picture in the Chicago Tribune, he said.
Council members were evidently not informed of the issue prior to the meeting. “This is the first I’ve seen this or heard about this,” said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward. “I did not read the Tribune article.” He called for a report from City staff. “Our apologies,” he added.
Dave Ellis, a retired firefighter/paramedic, said, “There have been attempts made to hijack or establish credit” under some active employees’ names. “This is a serious issue for everybody involved, particularly for those getting their identity hijacked.”
Speaking at City Council, Mr. Schoolmaster spoke of his “dismay, outrage and anger” about the issue. The day he received his form, he said, he “emailed the City Manager, [City CFO] Lyons, the Human Resources Director, and Deputy Manager [Erika] Storlie. A day went by. A week went by. Two weeks went by. Nothing. [Meanwhile] my inbox became crowded” with notes from employees outrages that their private information had been compromised.
“Up until today,” he said, “There was absolutely no outreach” from the City.
“I am very sorry this happened, but I need you to wrap up,” said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who, according to Council rules, permits only a limited amount of time to each public comment speaker, usually about three minutes each. Mr. Ellis then ceded his three minutes to Mr. Schoolmaster, who continued.
“Today, 17 days later,” he said, “I received my first contact from Ms. Storlie and Jennifer Linn. … This should not happen, and the response to it has not been very good.”
The cost of credit monitoring for even 1,000 employees will likely not be very great. A report from the City is expected shortly.