Allegations of Official Misconduct
County Clerk with Bogus Degree
Clashes with Judge over Web Site
by David Bloys
The legality of a County Clerk posting personal information like social
security numbers, driver license numbers and bank account numbers is
again causing problems for a clerk in Texas who has exposed tens of
thousands of local citizens to identity theft while obscuring her own
true identity behind a bogus degree.
Dianne Wilson, the same Fort Bend County clerk who for years
practiced identity deception with her own identity by claiming a PhD
from an online diploma mill is again defying the wishes of her
constituents and local judges by posting personal information
about citizens on her taxpayer-sponsored Web site.
Wilson no longer claims the title “Dr.” after News for Public
exposed the bogus degree two years ago and
KHOU-TV exposed her public and illegal deception earlier this year)
Now the discredited "Dr. Wilson" is facing a challenge from County
Court-at-Law Judge Bud Childers who questions her authority to
recklessly publish unprotected information about Fort Bend residents to
anyone – anywhere in the world.
The issue first garnered national attention in 2003 when the
county-court-at-law judges asked Wilson to stop posting
numbers on the Internet. Wilson refused and instead asked then County
Attorney Childers to seek an opinion from the office of Texas Attorney
General Greg Abbott.
As a county court-at-law judge, Childers has asked Wilson not to post a
certain probate document that contains bank account numbers on the
Internet. Texas law does not require county clerks to post “public
documents” online but requires only that the documents are available to
the public at the courthouse repository. Wilson refused Judge Childers
request stating that any document filed with her office is a public
document and will be posted to her Web site regardless of negative
consequences for those whose information is contained in the document.
Wilson has already posted thousands of probate documents containing
federally restricted information on her Web site. Even Wilson’s own
family isn’t exempt from the dangerous practice. The documents posted on
the site include the Social Security numbers, medical history, and
account numbers of Wilson’s own family members in dozens of 1986 probate
records transferred by Wilson from nearby Harris County. Harris County
does not publish sensitive documents about their citizens on the Harris
Childers believes that Wilson could keep the original document without
any redaction, but post on the Internet redacted documents or wait until
the court completes the process and finally post the whole document
after the case is settled.
Childers wanted Wilson to hold the original document in her office where
it could still be available for the public to view, but not posted on
the Internet making it available to anyone - anywhere in the world who
may want to see it for criminal purposes..
According to Wilson, her office scans every document filed in her office
within 24 hours and posts them on the Internet and sells the document
images in bulk to data miners worldwide. In a 2005 email to News for
Public Officials, Wilson admitted to selling ‘about 20 million
documents' to Florida-based data miner Red Vision for two thousand
dollars. When the Fort Bend Herald questioned Wilson about this
massive transfer of a taxpayer asset she responded by stating that such
bulk electronic transfers are an everyday occurrence for her office.
But documents, such as receipts issued by Wilson's office that
would reveal who makes the discounted back-door purchases are
not published online or readily available without a formal open records
Courthouse for Sale – Cheap!)
Also missing from Wilson's Web site documents is the 2006 independent
audit conducted by
HIPAA Solutions, LC that sheds light on possible federal privacy law
violations stemming from Wilson's office. Open Records requests by the
media for copies of the audit, produced at taxpayer expense, are
consistently denied by Fort Bend County officials.
In the absence of Childers last week, his case seems to have been
resolved with the direction of County Court-at-law Judge Sandy Bielstein.
The court probate auditor got the bank account numbers redacted and
filed it in the court, while the originals are with the attorneys,
according to the Fort Bend Independent.
Childers is not happy with the outcome, but he plans to take up the
issue with the State Judicial Commission. Ironically, Wilson has served
on several state committees as "Dr. Dianne Wilson, PhD"
and advocated what she calls her "aggressively progressive policy" for
online records access. With Childers raising the issue again, the State
Judicial Commission may not be so easily deceived.
Childers says the attorney-general’s opinion is not the law and there
are times when a document should not be placed on the Internet. A judge
has the power to issue such an order, he says.
Meanwhile tens of thousands of documents displaying unaltered social
security numbers, bank account numbers and driver license numbers can be
seen on Wilson's Web site. Recently News for Public Officials
visited Wilson's site and quickly gleaned social security numbers
belonging to more than 500 Fort Bend County residents. The documents
include Wilson's official seal displaying her illegal alteration of her
own identity into a Dr. with a PhD.
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