After breach, committee votes to delay Phase 2 of city wellness program

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee Common Council's Finance and Personnel Committee on Wednesday afternoon, December 4th made a decision to delay implementation of Phase 2 of the city's wellness program due to an ongoing problem with Froedtert Hospital and Dynacare over the mishandling of personal information.

Much of Wednesday's meeting was held in closed session to discuss the city's legal strategy -- but when it was open, the city and representatives of city workers were in agreement to delay implementation of Phase 2 of the city's wellness program.

"The action the committee took today was to suspend the implementation of Phase 2 of our wellness program -- that was a consensus with our employee groups and that`s what we`re going to pursue," Alderman Michael Murphy.

Problems began when a Dynacare Laboratories vehicle was stolen, and inside, was a flash drive containing city employees' personal information -- potentially exposing thousands of workers' social security numbers and health information.

The vehicle was recovered, but the flash drive was not.

"We`re still actively engaged in looking at all legal remedies. And that`s what we will do for the next week and probably make a decision soon thereafter," Alderman Murphy said.

That decision will be whether legal action needs to be taken against Froedtert and Dynacare for their roles in this situation.

A Milwaukee firefighter and his wife are suing in this case.

Michael Wojnar and his wife have filed a class action lawsuit against Dynacare, which put the information on the flash drive, and Froedtert Health, which contracted Dynacare.

“It’s not a simple situation like losing a credit card, where you just call the credit card company and get a new one,” said Wojnar’s attorney Doug Dehler. “We’re talking about social security numbers, dates of birth, things that don’t typically change.”

The lawsuit claims 6,000 city employees and their spouses or domestic partners has personal information stored on a Dynacare flash drive.

“It’s my hope it’s in some garbage bin somewhere and not being used for illegal purposes, but we don’t know that for certain,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

The lawsuit also claims Dynacare was negligent because the flash drive “contained unencrypted information of a highly sensitive nature.”

As of now, there have been no claims of identity theft, but Dehler says those with compromised information are far from safe.

“It’s something that they’re going to deal with for many years to come,” said Dehler. “It’s not a simple fix, unfortunately, and our clients are very concerned and that’s why they asked us to bring a lawsuit.”

Dynacare says the information was on the flash drive due to travel between different city sites as part of a wellness program.

"A lot of trust and confidence has been lost by Froedtert to the people who work for the city of Milwaukee. And people are very hesitant to entrust them," Alderman Murphy said.

Part of the issue, according to Alderman Murphy is the lack of help the city is receiving from Froedtert.

"I`m very disappointed that Froedtert is not cooperating with the investigation. It`s not a good sign and we`re really disappointed in that," Alderman Murphy said.

Alderman Murphy said they'll give Froedtert one more opportunity to comply -- and if it doesn't, the next option is clear.

"I think we`ll be in court. I think certainly we will be in court. But right now we seem to have very little cooperation," Alderman Murphy said.

Wednesday's action means city employees who were enrolled in the Phase 2 wellness program will not be able to meet with their wellness coach on January 1st, or receive up to $150 towards a membership at a health club facility.