New security policy set for county workers
by Jazz Clark
Allegations of backdoor entry by unauthorized people have caused the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department to take a closer look at procedures for security at the courthouse.
The subject was on the agenda at the Thursday, August 2 meeting of the Morgan County Commissioners.
While visitors normally are subjected to screening at the metal detector located near the main entrance, cases of doors being held open in the back have been reported.
Known as “piggybacking,” this procedure of multiple entries by the same employee entry card is considered dangerous by Sheriff Vince Shambaugh.
“In light of everything that’s taking place, and our cruel world as of the last few weeks, it seems timely to reiterate that if you’re not a card-carrying employee you need to enter through the front door,” Shambaugh said.
The system records who is where with every swipe, and that information could be critical in the case of an emergency.
“On a federal site, piggybacking will get your clearance pulled,” said Chief Deputy Wade Shambaugh. “It’s an easy fix, and easy to enforce. No security is completely bulletproof, however.”
If unauthorized issues continue, it may become necessary to deactivate card reader badges of those who do not comply with protocol, Shambaugh said.
At that point even courthouse employees would be forced to enter through the front door security.
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson brought up the point that for evening meetings, the side doors are propped open and people come and go freely.
“I don’t want to get my card turned off because I let someone into a meeting,” Hutchinson said.
It all boils back to staffing issues, said Chief Deputy Shambaugh. Security can always be improved.
“We all became a little bit lax, and we’ve all done it,” Hutchinson said.
But Commissioner Brad Close said he had never let a non-employee in through the back door.
Another security issue concerned deliveries. Technology Director Dave McDonald said he has witnessed equipment being moved in and out the back door without screening.
“We are trusting the HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning) guys not to be wheeling in big bombs, but it’s a crazy world we live in,” McDonald said. “They just wheel these carts in without being checked because they need to do their job.”
Shambaugh admitted they cannot create a rule for every scenario, and now that the security issues have been brought to our attention they can be improved upon.
Debbie Weaver of the Assessor’s Office made a startling claim at the meeting. She said a man accidentally brought a handgun in his briefcase when paying his taxes at the courthouse.
She said the briefcase containing the handgun went through the scanner without incident. Questioned by Sheriff Shambaugh, Weaver said she didn’t know about the security breach until after the man left the building.
Weaver and Shambaugh had a rather heated exchange after Thursday’s meeting. Weaver refuses to identify the man who brought the gun in until she speaks to her attorney, according to Shambaugh.
Shambaugh said he wants to get to the bottom of the case for the sake of security. He urged anyone who knows of suspicious or dangerous activity in the courthouse, or even just rumored activity, to contact law enforcement immediately.