- Associated Press - Monday, November 16, 2015

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (AP) - The general manager of an auto dealership owned by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole has asked Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office to investigate a state agency’s recent release of the names, salaries and social security numbers of more than 200 employees who work for Cole.

The state Division of Labor released the employees’ confidential information last month, in response to a request from The Charleston Gazette-Mail for a story about wage complaints filed against businesses owned by candidates for governor in West Virginia, the Gazette-Mail reports (https://bit.ly/1MMkQw4 ).

The Gazette-Mail did not request the employee payroll information, which was included in one of four wage complaint reports emailed to the newspaper by a Division of Labor spokeswoman. The personnel information was included among the last pages of a 100-page electronic PDF file.

Cole Automotive Group General Manager Ralph Vines said the agency was reckless to have released the information.

“I can’t imagine how something like that could happen,” Vines said.



State officials have apologized to Cole, governor’s office spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown said.

The labor division has also reported the incident to the State Privacy Office and Bureau of Risk and Insurance Management.

“The state considers this a very serious issue,” Holley-Brown said.

Vines wrote a letter to Tomblin on Nov. 3, saying that the commerce department’s general counsel, Josh Jarrell, seemed to have signed off on the release of the wage complaints.

“Given the sensitive nature of the information, it is unacceptable that an attorney in your administration would have so easily and carelessly approved this clear breach of personal data,” Vines wrote in the letter to the governor.

Vines also asked Tomblin to investigate whether the agencies shared the information with anyone else.

“My job is to run car dealerships, and it’s Bill Cole’s job to run for governor,” Vines told the Gazette-Mail. “I like to keep those separate, but I’ve got to protect our employees and customers. I want to get this behind us and go on.”

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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