I received a demand-letter to turn over emails sent to me from supporters who responded to my request for their input on the budget and tax rate before last month’s budget vote [see post: “Double Standard in M-C“] to the City Council through the City Secretary.
In accordance with my understanding of the state’s open record requirements, because I read a representative sample of them as part of the budget discussion, immediately after receiving the request I forwarded those emails. Along with each forwarded email, I requested that the respondent’s name, email address, and any reference that might identify them be redacted BEFORE they are distributed.
Some may ask, “why would I want to protect the identities of my supporters?”
It’s really simple, some of my supporters are close friends of the same people who oppose my conservative stands on the council, and would therefore not want their support for me to be disclosed, a point that many have made clear. A number of citizens have seen their long-standing relationships end abruptly after expressing a difference of opinion with thin-skinned current and former government officials. Some have experienced ridicule and have felt castigated for standing their ground, which is why so many of them who voted for me are depending on me to be their voice to limit the power and scope of government so that the vitality of their personal relationships and reputations in the community are not threatened.
After all, M-C is still a VERY small city [less than 2,500]!
My Good Faith Response
I forwarded the emails that were read in-session completely intact, in case the purpose of the request, which remains undisclosed, was to verify that the responses came from bonafide M-C citizens. This also provides the city with a permanent, un-redacted electronic version of the emails, before redactions are made, should the full and complete documents ever be required in a court of law.
I am hoping that this action exhibits good faith in adhering to both the spirit of the law and this demand.
Disregard for Citizen’s Rights & Welfare
While the individual making the request WAS willing to receive the emails with the citizen’s personal identity redacted so that he could see them before Tuesday’s city council meeting, they refuse to take that option off the table for in the future.
From the most basic standard of human decency, what motive beyond verifying citizenship could one possibly have to leave open the option to disclose the identities of my supporters at a later point, IF NOT TO EXPOSE THEM TO TREACHERY?
I care deeply about the welfare and safety of my constituents who I believe have the right to express their opinions to an elected office holder that is compiling a general sense of where supporters stand on an issue, without fear of disclosure or repercussions. I firmly believe that should the identities be revealed they will not remain confidential for long.
My Stand Against Leftist’s
I am resolved to stand firm in my conviction that distribution or opening access to respondent identities from the forwarded emails outside of my terms is a violation of each citizen’s rights under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, based upon facts that prove that there exists a reasonable probability that the disclosure of my supporters’ identity or identities will subject them to threats, harassment, or reprisal from either Government officials or private parties, where I am prepared to present, in a court of law, specific evidence to support these assertions by demonstrating past or present harassment of citizens when support of me or point(s) of view that reflect opposition to past actions of the city council, were exposed.
I have also received counsel from attorneys with a non-profit law firm that works to protect religious freedoms and first amendment rights of Americans, who advised me to wait for a response before taking any further action.
I have been further advised that I may be required to provide all of the responses, not just the representative sample that was read and has already been submitted, to which I have no objection, so long as (1) the identity of the person(s) are fully redacted before distribution (which includes the name, email address, and any reference that might identify the citizen), and (2) Councilman Short affirms the right to privacy of citizens that responded to me by relinquishing, in writing, any and all expectation(s) that their identity or identities be revealed or disclosed to anyone beyond the City Secretary, now and in the future.
If either of the two aforementioned terms cannot be agreed upon and those making the request contend an inherent right of access to the identity or identities of citizens who express their opinion(s) to me, their elected representative, then I will not hand these over until a court of law has ruled on the matter.
I still believe that the US Constitution is the highest authority in our Government at every level, as expressed by the original intent of its framers. How far we have come from respecting the free speech of our citizens and protecting their privacy to now attempting to violate that trust as a way to threaten and batter the people into submission.
Give me Liberty or Give me Death!