Residents in Missouri were encouraged to snitch on businesses that broke Gov. Mike Parson's (R) stay-at-home orders. A website and email address were launched so residents could anonymously report non-essential businesses being open. What residents didn't expect, however, was for their personal information to be released.
Under Missouri's Sunshine Law, members of the public can access records and meetings. Jared Totsch decided to file a Sunshine Law request. When he received the information, he shared the information on Facebook.
“Here ya go. The gallery of snitches, busybodies, and employees who rat out their own neighbors and employers over the Panic-demic," the Facebook post stated.
Those who made the reports seemed to miss the disclaimer at the bottom of the online form:
“I have been advised that this form and any other communication may be considered an open record pursuant to the Sunshine Law, Chapter 610 RSMo. St. Louis County may be required to release this form as well as other communications as a matter of law upon request by any member of the public, including the media.”
According to Totsch, those who filed anonymous reports should have paid attention to that very disclaimer.
“If they are worried about retaliation, they should have read the fine print which stated their tips would be open public record subject to a Sunshine request, and should not have submitted tips in that manner to begin with,” Totsch told KSDK-TV. “I released the info in an attempt to discourage such behavior in the future.”
A woman by the name of Patricia was one of the people who reported a non-essential business. She made the decision to report these businesses because she has Lupus and two of her family members are also immunocompromised. Now she feels like she's being punished doing what she believes is the right thing.
“I'm not only worried about COVID, I'm worried about someone showing up at my door, showing up at my workplace or me getting fired for doing what is right,” she said.
Totsch was unapologetic, especially for those employees who may lose their job for turning in their employers.
"I'd call it poetic justice, instant Karma, a dose of their own medicine," he said. "What goes around, comes around. They are now experiencing the same pain that they themselves helped to inflict on those they filed complaints against."
St. Louis County executive’s director of communications, Doug Moore, said county officials consulted with the Missouri attorney general's office about releasing the list of roughly 900 complaints.
“In this particular instance, our county counselor’s office consulted with the [attorney general]’s office on releasing the list of those who had filed complaints against county businesses. We were told all the information was public and we should not redact (except for HIPAA information). Withholding information goes against what journalists push us to be – as transparent as possible," Moore told KSDK-TV.
The complaints that were provided led to 29 businesses receiving violation letters.
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