Quest for Transparency—This Blog under Attack! July 2, 2021
We recently visited our children for Father’s Day and my husband’s 60th birthday. Just after leaving Kewaunee, I received an email notice from the USPS. Yes, I get notifications from the post office, and most other delivery services. It really helps around Christmastime when you have five children to buy gifts for. But back to the message from the post office. They were telling me that a certified letter awaited me at the Kewaunee post office. I can’t really remember getting a certified letter before, and I was intrigued. The notice showed a picture which allowed me to see that it was addressed to me and that it came from the City of Kewaunee. Fun—I wondered what it could be?!? Maybe I had been elected Councilwoman of the Month? Could it be that my councilperson’s pay went up from $145 a month to maybe $148 a month? Maybe they were rescinding the chicken ordinance. I was hopeful.
But when I got to the post office and opened the letter, it was none of those things. There was another possibility that I had never considered. It seems that someone had sent a FOIA request (Freedom of Information Act) demanding all my personal emails. I though, this is odd. The newest alderperson, who has been in office just over 60 days and ran on a transparency platform, is getting a demand for emails? I write everything, and freely send it to anyone who fills out my website form. And many people stop me and ask to be added to my email list. The circulation of this blog has tripled since my election. How much more open could I be?
Thinking it was a mistake, I asked the City for a copy of the request. And here is what I got...
From: Jason Jelinek [Mayor]
To: Terri Decur [City Clerk]
I am officially requesting all personal emails of councilperson Wendy Shelton. Recently in a publication she shared with her district, it stated an email address that is not the official city address given for city business and asked that recipients respond to that address. I would like all personal emails from April 5th to present date.
Mayor-City of Kewaunee
Yep, the mayor of our small town is interested in my “personal” mails. So interested is he in the personal side, that he asked twice in a three-sentence request that they be “personal”. And even more interesting, he is asking for emails from before my election. The whole thing is weird and a little creepy.
So it started me thinking. I’m not that interesting—just ask my children. My personal emails represent some of the following: Please confirm your pedicure appoint for this coming Thursday. Not interesting, but my toenails look great now! Or that Marcia set me up with a cardio exam. My heart is perfect after seven years on an extremely low-carb diet. I recommend it for everyone. Or that my wine order has shipped. Ok, it was a case which may seem a lot to some people, but there you go. And a little embarrassingly, Rosie did get a B in her Linear Calculus class at Worcester Polytechnic Institute after promising her mother an A. I mean, she’s locked in her college dorm room because of Covid with nothing to do but study. How can you get less than an A, right?
But then I thought about it a little bit more. If the mayor is allowed to demand personal emails, who is going to run for office anymore? It seems that the mayor is trying to send a message—if you run for office and disagree with him, this is what can happen to you. Fortunately the Wisconsin Supreme Court is not on the mayor’s side. This bullying of citizen alderpersons when they critique city officials cannot be allowed to stand. Otherwise good people will shy away from government service. And these days we need all the good people in government that we can get.
I did take that high school civics class, and the teacher taught us about a group of amendments to the constitution. And in that group was one called the fourth amendment. That’s the one where the people have a right to their personal papers from unreasonable searches and seizures. Now granted, the country is getting fast and loose with the constitution these days. But I do think that my personal pedicure appointment is something I need only share between my beautician and myself. So after asking around, I was told of this court case in Wisconsin. A man was after all this woman’s personal information through her personal emails. She happened to be a government employee. Interesting. There was a lawsuit and the court said that she did NOT have to give him her personal emails. She won that case.
And of course, I will let you all know how this one unfolds.
Thanks for listening,