The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is investigating how the confidential home addresses of thousands of officers, prosecutors, judges and others were posted online over the weekend.
The addresses are redacted from the county property appraiser’s website at the request of police and prosecutors, as allowed under state law, but friends of a former sheriff’s deputy with a grudge against the agency obtained the information and posted it online.
It includes nearly 3,600 names and addresses of local and federal judges and prosecutors, FBI agents and officers from many local police departments. It also lists addresses of facilities that house victims of domestic violence.
The Palm Beach Post is not naming the site or linking to it because of the sensitive nature of the records.
How the information ended up online is a mystery. Pat Poston, the property appraiser’s director of exemption services, which handles requests by police officers to redact their home addresses, said county information technology specialists said no one had hacked the property appraiser’s database.
“We’ve been contacted by the sheriff’s office,” Poston said. “They are beginning an investigation.”
A spokeswoman from PBSO did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment. The State Attorney’s Office learned of the release soon after it went online and notified its prosecutors, spokesman Mike Edmondson said.
The site that posted the information is linked to former deputy Mark Dougan, an outspoken enemy of Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and his second-in-command, Chief Deputy Michael Gauger. In a civil suit filed in 2012, Gauger accuses Dougan of defaming him.
Dougan denied responsibility for the release. He said friends in Russia were responsible, but said he knew “a long time ago” that the hackers had the information.
Dougan said the release was retribution against the sheriff’s office, which he claimed had hacked into his personal Facebook and email accounts without a warrant.
“It sucks, but if the government doesn’t want their privacy breached, then they can’t go around breaching the privacy of citizens without a warrant,” he said. “Yes, 4,000 people were not involved in hacking my stuff, but those 4,000 people didn’t do anything to stop it.”
Although state law allows many types of public employees to request their home addresses be redacted from property appraiser websites, many don’t. Those who were not redacted are not exposed on the new posting. The 3,600 all had taken advantage of the state law to keep people from knowing where they live.
In addition to current and former law enforcement, some private investigators, firefighters, victims of domestic violence and recent military veterans can all apply to the property appraiser to have their addresses shielded in property records.