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Computer glitch blamed for report error
By Ron Maloney The Herald-Zeitung
Published July 14, 2001
A Comal County Sheriff’s Office official Friday blamed a computer glitch for a 53-year-old local businessman’s name not appearing on a public list of persons booked into the jail.
Sharon Jerome, head records clerk for the Comal County Sheriff’s Office, spent much of Friday afternoon trying to determine why the man’s name was not released to the public with those of nine other people arrested Wednesday in Comal County.
Late Friday, she said the software vendor, TSG of Plano, discovered a previously unknown software problem that deleted the man’s information from the "public view" list — even though he had been correctly booked into the jail.
"TSG said it was an unavoidable and undetectable computer glitch," Jerome said. "It’s unusual. This is the first time it’s come to our attention."
When New Braunfels police arrested the 53-year-old local businessman on a public lewdness allegation Wednesday, they brought him into Comal County Jail along with another man and issued a news release, as has been done in similar arrests.
Both men — the other is a 30-year-old Louisiana man who works in New Braunfels — spent a few hours at the facility. Later in the day, a local bail bonding company secured their release for $1,000 each.
Both men and another charged with indecent exposure on Wednesday appeared on the sheriff’s office’s internal arrest and release lists and were booked. As with all arrested inmates, the bookings included mugshots, fingerprints and entries in various computer databases.
But the local man’s name — released by police — did not appear on the public list the sheriff’s office generates each morning, even though the other men's names did.
That list is used in crime reporting by local news outlets, including the Herald-Zeitung.
The lack of the public entry raised questions about how complete the list is — and whether some people’s names don’t make the list.
Jail Chief David Ott said jail officials did not play favorites with the inmates.
"I don’t care who you are — an officer, my relative — exactly the same," Ott said.
Ott said he was surprised to hear that the arrested man’s name didn’t appear on the list.
Ott called his chain of command on duty Wednesday. He spoke with a captain, three sergeants, a corporal and two records clerks.
He asked Jerome to re-enter the booking, and they printed out the public view list again.
She did it twice, and the entry still did not print on the public log — although as before, it was on all the internal databases.
"When you’re entering the arrests, you have several screens you enter them in," Jerome said. "I checked repeatedly. Everything is entered right. It’s showing up here but not on the arrest report or the media report.
"When you’re going into the arrest information, there’s four or five places it has to be entered and in the booking process, there’s three places. It’s all there. Everything is where it needs to be. It’s just not on the arrest report or the media report.
"I took it out and re-entered it, and I ran the reports, and it didn’t make one bit of difference.
Jerome said that while it was possible, she did not believe someone could have intentionally deleted the man's name from the public view list.
She called the software vendor; the company diagnosed it and was working late Friday to fix it.
"Basically, it was something in the program. There was nothing we could have done to prevent it. It doesn’t happen very often, and it’s very rare," Jerome said. SERVICES
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-- Carl Jenkins (email@example.com), July 25, 2001