Thursday, October 08, 2009

"Dangerous Precedent"



Personal Attacks in Response to Investigations May Suppress Public Interest

PORTSMOUTH, OH- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today urged local officials to treat public records requests professionally and courteously, so not to discourage other residents from seeking information about the government. News reports out of Portsmouth claimed that a local blogger named Robert Forrey requested information regarding a local project. His request was fulfilled, but in an email from Mayor Jim Kalb’s official account, the mayor berated Forrey including comments about his family, appearance and age.
“Mayor Kalb’s actions were unprofessional and harmful to the community. By attacking someone for making a public records request, he has set a dangerous precedent that could frighten others from seeking similar information,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “Whether Mayor Kalb personally likes Mr. Forrey should not have any impact on a public records request. It is the duty of government to be open to all people, not just those officials like or who support them. Public records requests should be handled with professionalism and courtesy above the influence of petty political fights,” added Link. After Mr. Forrey received Mayor Kalb’s email, he posted it to his website, where he maintains a blog. In subsequent media reports, Mayor Kalb has acknowledged that he wrote the email, but did not regret writing it. Link concluded, “It is vital that local officials make public records open to all residents equally, without regard to their personal feelings. If residents begin to believe that they may be attacked or scrutinized for requesting information, it may make many reluctant to step forward. While officials are free to have personal opinions on residents or issues, they ought to conduct official government business in a professional and neutral manner.”


The statement above, issued by the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, appeared on the ACLU website on October 2, 2009. The email from Mayor Kalb that prompted the reaction from Christine Link, Executive Director of the Ohio ACLU, can be found in an earlier River Vices blog, "Burning the Midnight Oil," which can be reached by clicking here. R.F.