FENWICK ISLAND – Allegations of a security breach at the Fenwick Island Police Department had community members seeking answers from elected officials at last week’s town council meeting.
During the public participation portion of last Friday’s town council meeting, several residents came before officials to express their support for Police Chief John Devlin after it was announced the town would not be renewing his employment contract. Their comments, however, soon turned into questions regarding an alleged security breach at the police station.
“I understand there was a security breach in the police station at some point, and I’m not even sure what happened there,” said resident Craig Pfeifer. “Could the chief comment on that and let us know if that’s a concern moving forward?”
Resident Faye Horner also questioned officials about the incident.
“If there is a breach of security with the police station, I’d like to know what it was,” she said. “Can anybody comment on that from the town council?”
Mayor Natalie Magdeburger said the council would not comment. When asked if the chief could respond to the public’s questions, she said he could not, as public comments could only be made by residents and business owners.
“You can make your statements, whatever you would like on public participation,” Magdeburger replied. “The chief’s not a resident or owner of a business here.”
Resident Bill Weistling, however, encouraged Devlin to speak after the meeting.
“Chief Devlin, I just heard you are not allowed to speak. If you are willing to speak after this meeting, to the public or press or anybody, give your opinion …,” he said. “Who is allowed access to the building? Who is not allowed access to the building? Who is allowed access to the records? That’s all I’m asking, just the facts.”
In an interview this week, Devlin said an incident occurred at around 9:30 p.m. on April 23, while he was at a training conference in Florida. He said that evening Mayor Natalie Magdeburger used a security access code to enter the police station through the back door.
“I received a phone call from my officer in charge …,” he said. “All I was asked was ‘Can I change the code? There was a security breach.’”
Devlin said only personnel certified by the Delaware Criminal Justice Information System (DELJIS) can enter the police station without an escort. He claimed Magdeburger had entered the station without permission and without an escort.
“She opened the door and walked in,” he said.
In an interview Wednesday, Magdeburger denied all allegations of a security breach. She said the characterization was inaccurate, as she did not unlawfully enter the police station.
“I was given a code, and I was given a code by the chief …,” she said. “I was never given any instruction on when to use it or how to use it. And our staff uses it. That’s how people use the code. That was, as far as instruction, what any of us received.”
Magdeburger recalled the night the events transpired. She said she had used a pass code the police chief personally provided to her and had shown her how to use to enter the building. She said she was there to obtain a hard copy of the police schedule so she could schedule ride-alongs with officers the following week.
“There are two doors to that side of the police building, an exterior door and an interior door,” she said. “I used the pass code by myself to go through the exterior door. Then at the interior door there were two police officers in the interior part of building. When I got to the interior door, one of the officers heard me come in and said, ‘Hi, Mayor.’”
Magdeburger said she had spent roughly five or ten minutes in the building and was escorted by an officer the entire time. After receiving a copy of the schedule and making small talk with the officers at the station, she left, she said. She said she did not seek or was given any access to any DELJIS information.
“I’m just trying to do my job and do it as well as I can,” she said. “It’s unfortunate an allegation like this was made in that circumstance. At the end of the day, I don’t believe I did anything wrong. I did not get any information I wasn’t entitled to receive. I just received a copy of the schedule, which I needed to plan these ride-alongs.”
In the wake of the incident, Devlin said he has sent an ethics violation report to the Delaware attorney general’s office. Those concerns have also been shared with DELJIS, he said.
“I reached out to the attorney general’s office, but I’m not sure if they are going to take it up,” he said in an interview this week. “I sent it as an ethics violation and DELJIS, because there is a security breach, would follow up with them.”
In a memorandum dated May 10, DELJIS Executive Director Spencer Price responded to Devlin’s security concerns.
“As you are aware, the FBI CJIS Security Police and the DELJIS Rules and Regulations specify that access to criminal justice information (CJI) and criminal history record information (CHRI) is limited only to Authorized Users,” the memo reads. “It is the Agency’s responsibility and obligation to implement the necessary measures to ensure their compliance with these policies, as well as all applicable state and federal laws or regulations governing the dissemination of CJI and CHRI.”
The memo states that authorized police agencies are responsible for ensuring the security of CJIS information and instituting safeguards to secure physical access to such information. That includes escorting any visitors or unauthorized users and monitoring activity in physically secure locations.
“Further, all Authorized Users who become aware of possible improper access by another user or any entity are responsible for immediately reporting the potential violation,” the memo reads.
Magdeburger said this week she has not been contacted by any state agency, but added she and the town council would comply with any investigation or review or procedures.
“If there’s a procedure that should have been followed, we’d like to know that so we follow things appropriately,” she said.
In addition to seeking information on the April 23 incident, residents last week also asked the town council to elaborate on the town’s decision to not renew Devlin’s contract.
“This involves a personnel matter, and out of respect for Chief Devlin, the council will not be discussing the details in the public forum,” Magdeburger said last week. “However, be advised the narrative you may be hearing from sources may not tell you the full or accurate story.”