Friday, October 05, 2007

Censorship in Claremont

We like to think freedom of speech applies to everyone, including bloggers, yet some feel the truth needs to be kept from public view.

The City of Claremont seems to feel the Blogger, Claremont Insider, is playing unfair by posting the salaries paid to city officials online. The blogger discovered the pay studs online in the archives of the Claremont City web site, which anyone else could have located as well, and published the information online Sept. 7, 2007.

The City of Claremont attorney cried foul to Google, which prompted Google to bring down the post, with an email of warning. The blogger responded by posting a text version of the pay studs, which by the way did not reflect social security numbers, driver license numbers, or any other personal information on the payees.

Yet, the City Attorney demanded that Google censor the Claremont Insider by halting all web hosting of the blog on their servers.

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin requested a copy of Claremont’s complaint to Google. The request was at first denied by the city attorney, citing first client privilege, which didn't apply since the correspondence was between the attorney and Google, not the client, the city of Claremont. Then, the attorney claimed the letter was covered by a work product privilege, which also did not apply. The Bulletin made a public records request, which took the city several weeks to respond to.

The letters in question were posted today on the Bulletin's website, and I say, great job to the Daily Bulletin for keeping the public informed.

This was nothing more than an attempt by the City of Claremont to quiet a critical voice, which is the worst type of censorship I have seen.

Why wasn’t the blogger contacted by Claremont and asked to remove the pay stubs first, instead of attempting to close down the blog?


Jade said...

I find this interesting since the majority of cities post salaries for different positions on their websites. In fact, I think salaries are considered public information as long as it is listed in a generic term, i.e., clerk typist, $3000 to $3700 per month. Perhaps the information posted contained exact salaries and employees' names, which would be a violation of their right to privacy.

Nubia said...

A recent court ruling gives the public access to local government salaries, however, employee names, SSN's, etc. are not.

Apparently, Claremont City Attorney may need to brush up on his legaleeze or he/she may turn out to be more of a liability to the city than the administration may want.

Jade said...

I completely agree with your comment, Nubia. Sometimes City Attorneys are not as informed as they should be. This type of error could prove to be an expensive liability for Claremont.

Bill said...

The city has a bigger problem then they think. Several nights before the Claremont Insider posted the paystubs in question, I was working in the City of Claremont's archives looking for some documents towards a claim I filled against the city. Adter I finished my search, i thought I would play in the archives and searched a name of a friend of mine who is a city employee and see if there were any documents with his name on them. And guess what popped up? His paystub. At the time I didn't think much of it. Then the furior started when the Claremont Insider posted some higher official paystubs. Then the city made the claim their computers were hacked. Baloney! As the Claremont Insider claimed, the City of Claremont had posted them on a public web site. If the City does litigate the matter, I would be willing to testify on behalf of the Claremont Insider as to what I had found prior to the posting in dispute.


Nubia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nubia said...

Let's just hope they haven't dug into the archives and removed all the paystubs.

Considering the inept City Attorney, perhaps the docs are still there and can be subpoenaed as proof in court.

Hacked, MY REAR! STUPID is more like it. Posting paystuvs with sensitive information is clearly an invasion of privacy.

In the City where I'm employed, a salary schedule has always been posted on our Intranet, accessible to the public, even before the court ruling came down. However, it listed salaries by position and not by name and SSN's.

Seems to me, Claremont's entire administration AND City Council needs an overhaul!

Miss Havisham said...

So, it is actually the City of Claremont that is responsible for violating the employee's privacy by providing public access to the protected information.

Duh. They don't understand the difference between information that is classified, and that which is public. Well, neither does the Bush administration.

I shutter to think what will happen if some poor employee gets victimized by identity theft. My, my. I hope no harm comes to anyone because of this kind of stupidity.