Dogs and Privacy

Well, Mr. Stingl had his say.

Right out of college I was awarded a political job with much burden in terms of substantial weight because what legislation I wrote would help or harm 34 million people, plus endless hours and weekends and trying to find free food anywhere we could because we made no money. Add that we were also covering for the attorneys that were supposed to assist us but were only there 1-2 days per week so I had to do his work as well.

After my first assistant job that lasted six months I moved to the library which got me familiar with Federal law. All of this was pre-computer so I sent clippings to each Legislative Associate. I got to learn the law and they got to know me. After the summer I was tasked with the largest one-person committee and did everything by hand. I was on good terms with the elevator operator (“bella ragazza”) Tony and knew when I smelled Aramis at 7 a.m. that my big-time Judiciary Committee lawyer (not the weeny one) was in so I could call early. Judiciary and Ways and Means had to weigh in if there was a criminal or monetary penalty in legislation and it wouldn’t pass unless they gave an OK.

Ironically, I was the jack of all trades and master of some. I was tasked with the Freedom of Information Act. Think JFK’s assassination and when those files may become available). Also the Sunshine Laws which make public meetings open to the public.

I was also charged with privacy. Open records and privacy. Years ago, as a young associate, it did not even occur to me that I was walking a tightrope between availability of public records and personal rights of privacy. One thing is no Catholic could vote for a privacy act without embracing the Supreme Court’s right to abortion.

I think this is going to be a two-part series. Ready for it? I wrote to the reporter who says that police redacting of names that are released to the press and public has hit critical mass because it gives no one information. This is because they fear lawsuits for defamation of character et al. Now they’ve started redacting dog names. If it’s an automatic computer program I may understand the redaction of the name Dexter or Chloe.

Two scenarios were given:

One, a blank couple has a dog named Chloe who has been wrongly accused of mauling a toddler, was housed in our city’s court case dog pound filled with dog fighters and was eviscerated immediately after being placed in custody but of course no-one knows that. Everyone who read the paper thought she was guilty but it was another dog in the neighborhood that is still on the loose.

Then there’s Zeb, a sweet Golden Retriever who was in the car when it got in an accident and his folks perished. Zeb survived and went to relatives.

Balancing privacy with freedom of information, I would print the names of Chloe’s parents hoping neighbors would know to steer clear. If Zebulon’s owners are gone and he’s safe, that’s fair game.

I know that the Supreme Court is going to have to rule on this forever, reporters hate it, and police departments are just covering to avoid lawsuits. In the end, I will go for openness and transparency in government. Who is paying your legal bills? We are. Redacting every name is ridiculous just to avoid a lawsuit. I’d rather you pave our streets so my car won’t fall down a sinkhole. Non-cheery, more to come about my struggles between FOIA and privacy. Dee



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