Technical Support Analyst Maria “Tina” Hernandez is being investigated for allegedly using her security clearance to access the state driver’s license database to obtain confidential information on a co-worker with whom she was at odds.
Fort Lauderdale police Internal Affairs Captain Michael G. Gregory announced her suspension in an internal memo dated Oct. 4, after receiving notice of the pending criminal charges.
“This employee is not permitted inside any Police Department facility unless escorted by a manager,” Gregory wrote in his memo.
Tim Donnelly, who heads the Broward State Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Unit, said through a spokeman, “We are not in a position to say anything."
Citing the ongoing investigation, Fort Lauderdale police are not commenting on the case either.
However, the South Florida Times has confirmed the case is being handled by Assistant State Attorney Catherine Maus, who has made a plea offer to Hernandez.
“Having heard no response from you to my invite letter dated August 31, 2011, I have completed my review of the above referenced investigation. The (state attorney’s) office is prepared to file a felony charge of Offense Against Intellectual Property, against you,” Maus wrote to Hernandez in a letter also dated Oct. 4.
Maus offered Hernandez a plea agreement of one count of Disclosure of Confidential Personal Identifying Information, which is a misdemeanor.
According to several sources familiar with the investigation, Hernandez is accused of using the database to obtain confidential information and the photograph of her co-worker, Cindy Hoffman.
Hernandez sent the information to her husband by e-mail, including unflattering comments about Hoffman. It is unclear what the purpose was, but sources said somehow the e-mail was copied to Hoffman and an Internal Affairs investigation ensued.
Workplace tensions are said to exist between Hernandez and Hoffman but the source of the conflict has not been clarified.
Efforts to reach Hernandez were unsuccessful. She has been employed with the city for more than a decade and earns $76,252 a year.
Asked for a comment, Hoffman said, “I don’t have any idea what you are talking about.”
The state’s Driver and Vehicle Information Database (DAVID) is compiled by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. It maintains driver’s license data and other confidential information on millions of people who have driver’s licenses or vehicles registered in the state.
Access to the database is restricted to official use only, but there have been cases when it was used for other purposes.
In 2010, former Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Robert Mocarski was found to have used DAVID to gain information on people who visited the home of a woman he was accused of stalking while on-duty. Mocarski reached a plea agreement on other counts and was not charged with misusing the DAVID database.
In 2009, Jeanette Espinosa, an analyst assigned to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Miami office, admitted using different databases, including DAVID, to gather information on several people, including her co-workers, their children, and spouses.
Espinosa received a 10-day suspension without pay, a demotion, and a five percent pay cut but was not charged with committing a crime.
*Pictured above is Maris "Tina" Hernandez, left, and Cindy Hoffman, right.