SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday that a weeklong investigation has found that only two state workers were involved in compiling a list of 1,300 people who are allegedly in the U.S. illegally.
The Department of Workforce Services fired one — a temporary employee — on Tuesday, and filed an "intent to terminate employment" for the other.
Herbert said he received a final, oral report on Tuesday from officials conducting the investigation, and planned to turn over his information Wednesday to Attorney General Mark Shurtleff for a formal criminal investigation. The names of the two employees have not yet been released, although Herbert said they may be later.
Herbert said the two employees conducted a "very methodical, thoughtful, very planned" invasion of databases "to get around security checks." He said at least one had confessed.
DWS executive director Kristen Cox said employees in the department are trained on federal privacy laws.
"We carefully protect the personal information that we gather and take very seriously breaches of that public trust," Cox said. "The list contained inaccurate information and undermines the need to maintain confidentiality and adhere to the due process rules of our country."
The list was mailed by an anonymous group to news media and immigration enforcement agencies demanding that the people it named be deported.
It included birth dates, addresses and phone numbers and had such personal information as the due dates of several pregnant women. It listed the Social Security numbers used by several people, and listed children's names.
Several people who were on the list have said they are in the United States legally.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said he is ready to begin an investigation immediately, as well as share findings with the U.S. Attorney for Utah because of the possibility that state and federal privacy laws were violated.
A DWS spokesman had said earlier that up to eight other employees had also been under investigation, but Herbert said they had been cleared.
"The good news is that it was only two. Others may have been aware but were not complicit," he said.
State Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said he understood the motivation behind the employees' actions.
"Personally, I see them as people who were frustrated their jobs were in danger because we are cutting state budgets," he said, while seeing government benefits going to "people who in their minds aren't citizens."
Illegal immigrants themselves are not eligible for government benefits, but their children born here, who are U.S. citizens, are eligible. Often, the state collects information on all members of such households to determine the level of benefits a citizen may receive.54 comments on this story
Waddoups praised the governor's quick action. "I think he did a great job in tracking it down," the Senate president said, adding he was glad more state employees weren't involved.
Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones, D-Holladay, said the employees involved misused their power. "It could negatively reflect on the work of our good state employees," Jones said.
CONTRIBUTING: Lisa Riley Roche