May 10, 2018 10:57 PM
Hundreds of files that were marked confidential and contained sensitive information about troubled teenagers around the state were obtained at a storage auction in southern Minnesota.
According to the man who purchased the unit for $20, the files contained social security numbers, as well as medical and criminal records on teenagers who attended Elmore Academy, a youth detention facility that shut down in 2014.
It was located in Elmore, Minnesota - just north of the Iowa border.
Pictures the man sent to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS show box after box stacked on one another.
The files are stamped with a big, bold “confidential” on the front.
“I think it’s a lot of information that could have potentially been stolen,” Elmore mayor Bjorn Olson said.
Elmore Academy, which opened in 1998, was the town’s biggest employer and at the top of the tax rolls.
It shut down four years ago after allegations of abuse and accusations that staff was housing non-violent teens with violent ones.
The parent company, Youth Services International (YSI), dissolved late last year, according to an attorney representing the organization in a federal lawsuit.
“Something fell through the cracks," Olson said. "The company had a lot that it was dealing with, and it is in no way OK.
"It is bad."
Kody Krause attended Elmore Academy in the early 2000s. He now lives in Delaware and thought this chapter of his life was officially closed.
“Someone messed up, because they know," he said. "They were dealing with HIPPA laws and they know to destroy all that stuff.
“Even the criminal system told me that my juvenile record is hidden. It’s locked. No one can find it. But it’s in a storage unit right now.”
A former employee for the Academy tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that before it closed, staff members were collecting all the confidential files in the building and bringing them to a central location to be destroyed.
Clearly, that last step did not happen.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS alerted the State Department of Corrections, which licensed and inspected the facility before it closed.
Sarah Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for the department, said the matter is no longer in its jurisdiction because the facility is shut down.
“The state rule does not address the destruction of records when a facility closes operation,” she said.
Fitzgerald declined an on-camera interview.
The man who purchased the storage unit said the files are currently in a safe, locked location.
He’s waiting for guidance from local authorities on what to do with them.
The Blue Earth Police Department is looking into the situation. But the chief said he believes this is a civil issue, not a criminal one.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS attempted to reach the former administrator of the Academy. A response has yet to be received.
The attorney representing YSI in a separate legal matter would not comment on the discovery of the confidential files.
Updated: May 10, 2018 10:57 PM
Created: May 10, 2018 05:04 PM
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