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Cabinet Was Surplus, Files Inside Were Personal

Posted February 14, 2007

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— A man looking for a bargain at the state surplus store in Raleigh ended up getting more than he bargained for—information that he didn’t want but that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wanted back.

Chris McCulloch of Ridgeway, Va., drilled open a filing cabinet that was locked when he bought it. Inside were files, and inside the files were records of former UNC grad students and applicants: names, addresses, grade point averages and Social Security numbers.

The discovery has the university and surplus store are looking to change their policies.

“It kinda freaked me out. It was sorta scary, you know, all the stuff that we found in there,” McCulloch said Wednesday.

McCullouch contacted the surplus store, and a staff member drove to Virginia the next day, gathered the files, and thanked McCulloch for calling. The incident leaves some unanswered questions, however.

“Our policy is that when the items get here, they should have been cleared out. They are surplus items,” said Mickey E. Sauls, director of the state’s Division of Surplus Property.

UNC has “accepted the total responsibility for what has happened,” Sauls said.

“I don't know what you can say except we're profoundly sorry and upset that it happened,” said Lee McLean, an associate dean of the UNC School of Medicine.

The school sent letters to all 88 people whose files were in the cabinet. And from now on, the university will double check items sent to Surplus.

Offices getting rid of file cabinets will “sign off and certify that the drawers are empty,” McLean said. “It won’t happen again.”

The surplus store has altered its policy, too.

“We're not gonna sell anyting that's locked, and in the future we're telling the agencies, ‘Don't send it to us locked,’” Sauls said.

McCulloch was happy to hear of the changes.

“I'm glad something came out of it, you know, something good anyway,” he said

To reward his good deed, UNC sent McCulloch a thank you letter and a T-shirt.
9 Comments

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  • mandwss Feb 15, 2007

    Hello, I am the guy who found the files. At first I was not sure if I wanted this to be public knowledge, but after talking to my dad, I thought it could impact how things like this were handled. My father, Jay McCulloch of Raleigh, has done all the legwork. I guess he sent at least 40 emails to different people, including the surplus store and other media outlets. I am thankful that WRAL was willing to listen; it means a lot to Jay and me. I agree with rebelnc; that the state should offer credit monitoring for the victims of this crime and pick up the tab--after all, who knows how much they (the victims) paid for their educations, just to lose every thing that they have earned if I was a criminal. As a Libertarian, this oversight on the part of NC is an atrocity and should be rectified at all costs. mandwss-at-earthlink-dot-net.

  • Huey Feb 15, 2007

    Agree with you 100% nthomas42. It could have been full of money!
    They should punish the department who sent it to UNC surplus this
    way. And UNC should have given the honest man in Virginia
    something more than just a t-shirt! But life over on the hill
    has become more and more hectic lately and they are in too big
    a hurry throwing out the "old" in order to make room for the
    "new" that mistakes happen. When you are spending money at the rate UNC is then mistakes happen. Well, at least the lady promised it wouldn't happen again. And if it does I suggest WRAL send Monica over for a Five on Your Side segment. She tends to get things done right.

  • superman Feb 15, 2007

    How would anyone with any brains at all, dispose of a locked file cabinet?

  • diwanicki Feb 15, 2007

    Thank you to the guy for being honest. This is why you are suppose to check everything. Do your job its what you are being paid to do.

  • oldrebel Feb 15, 2007

    Each person whose records were in this group of found documents should have credit monitoring provided with UNC picking up the tab. The individual and their supervisor should be fired for their negligence that could have caused a lifetime of grief if notfor the honesty of the person who ended up with the file cabinet. Personal data is extremely sensitive and anyone who has access to it and allows it to be put into the hands of those unauthorized to access it, should be fired without delay. Or better yet, why not take thier personal information, social security numbers, credit card info, etc....and put it out their in the public via the internet perhaps..let them see how devestating this kind of lapse can be.

  • HARDWRKR Feb 14, 2007

    I am glad they found a decent man to return the materials. Maybe he should grow a mustache and become head of security at a state agency. Perhaps the employees at state surplus and UNC could not get off their personal cell phones long enough to do their jobs.

  • Slip Kid Feb 14, 2007

    Some less than motivated UNC employee was either too lazy or too busy to empty out the cabinet before it was sent to surplus.
    Should remind us how important even the little details in our work are important. Let's hope it is a rare occurence.

  • mvnull Feb 14, 2007

    I'm really glad UNC saw fit to reward this man's honesty with ... a t-shirt. Maybe they should have upgraded and given him a Virginia Tech t-shirt.

  • kittnkboodle Feb 14, 2007

    WOW - you might expect this from anybody else but not from a prestigous educational institution! Way to go, UNC!