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Texas

Judge Orders Comptroller to Testify Under Oath on Data Breach

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Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune
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Susan Combs is the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

A Travis County judge has ruled that Texas Comptroller Susan Combs must submit to a three-hour deposition to answer questions related to the largest data leak in Texas history. Combs issued a statement this afternoon saying she will appeal.

The comptroller revealed in April that the personal information of 3.5 million current and former state employees was stored on a publicly accessible computer server for about a year.

Travis County District Judge Rhonda Hurley yesterday ruled that Combs must submit to questioning under oath by the Texas Civil Rights Project and lawyers Jim Harrington and Chuck Herring. The deposition may be conducted at any location, and a court reporter will be present and taking notes for its duration.

“She can’t fudge on it, as she could do if it were sort of a political press conference that she’s done in the past,” Harrington told KUT News. “This helps us get a better understanding of why the problems occurred.”

As we reported in April, the move is a first step by the Texas Civil Rights Project on a possible lawsuit.

Update at 4:07 pm: Comptroller Combs' office issued this statement indicating she will appeal the deposition order.

The Comptroller is deeply sorry for the data exposure that happened, and the agency has been taking actions to help those who were affected and implementing new policies and procedures to help ensure this never happens again.   The Attorney General’s office is representing the state in the legal action in Travis County District Court and will appeal the court’s ruling on the deposition.   

Earlier: In a news release, the Texas Civil Rights Project said lawyers want to ask Combs about these specific issues:

 (1) the reason the Comptroller’s Office made public the personal information of 3.5 million Texans; (2) how and why the illegal disclosures occurred; (3) the identity of all persons responsible for the disclosures, both in the Comptroller’s Office and in any other state agencies who were involved in the disclosure; (4) the specific procedures, rules, and regulations that Comptroller Combs and the Comptroller’s Office violated; (5) Why Combs and her office allegedly failed to learn of the disclosures for almost a year, and exactly how and when they did learn of the disclosures; (6) why Combs and her office delayed in releasing information concerning the disclosures after they learned of the disclosures, allegedly on or about March 31, 2011; (7) the extent to which Combs and her office violated the Texas Constitution, Texas statutes, Texas agency rules and regulations, and federal law; (8) the number of Texans who have been victimized by the release of names, addresses, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and other personal  information; and (9) what damages and financial losses Combs and her office have caused Texas taxpayers to date, and what further damages, expenses, losses will result in the future because of the improper disclosures; who will pay those amounts, and who will be held ultimately responsible for them.

 

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