A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

A question of confidentiality, with updates

Written September 9th, 2013 by
Albany activist Tom Cordier can use his truck to support the city's ballot measure, but the city's email addresses are off limits.

Albany activist Tom Cordier can use his truck to support the city’s ballot measure, but the city’s email addresses are off limits.

The Albany city government has turned down a request by Tom Cordier for a list of about 27,000 email addresses to which it sends City Bridges, its monthly newsletter with stories on city programs and services. Cordier wanted the list so, as a private citizen, he could pay a company to email an appeal to approve Ballot Measure 22-119 in the Sept. 17 election. But the city attorney, Jim Delapoer, said the email addresses are exempt from public disclosure and Cordier could not have them.

The city has compiled the email list from library, utility and parks and recreation records, according to Delapoer. Library and utility records are exempt by law, and the parks department promises confidentiality when asking for the addresses. Which makes me wonder: If the addresses are confidential, how does City Bridges get to use them?

The newsletter is a kind of news medium. The September issue contains the text of the ballot measure, a column by the city manager on how the city has handled its Pepsi settlement money, and praise for the city’s transparency website from the International City Management Association — all innocuous but hardly disinterested or impartial.

You’d think that if email addresses are collected for only library, utility and recreation notifications and are confidential otherwise, they could not be used to broadcast the city’s reports on its own good deeds. (hh)

From Christine Ruck, via Facebook: Good points. Any merged lists the city is using to “educate” could also be construed as advocacy on certain issues.

From Wilma Albright, via Facebok:  I agree Mr Hering. Why can city use those addresses?

From Ted Salmons:  Well there you go again, Mr. Hering.  Expecting the government on any level to follow the same rules they want to hold their constituents to.  It’s apparently all well and good for them to use the email addresses they’ve “farmed” from different sources legally or illegally to advertise for themselves.  But if a private citizen wants to use the same data base for a different view.  OH NO… Can’t give you that information. That would be a violation of privacy.

Just so there’s no confusion, this was not a case of a “different view.” Cordier wants the measure to pass, and so does the city council. (hh)

UPDATE: Tom Cordier said on Sept. 10 that the city attorney told him he had misunderstood his request, that he didn’t want the email list itself. Cordier wants to pay the city’s mailing contractor to send a message to the city’s list, and Cordier said City Manager Wes Hare had declined to authorize that. Cordier plans to appeal to the district attorney under the Public Records Law.

Wes Hare explained, also on Sept. 10, that using the city’s email list to send a campaign message, even from a private party, would amount to using public resources for political purposes, which by law is not allowed.


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