Now that controversial data has gone viral on social media, the snitches behind it are terrified. St. Louis County outed whistleblowers who reported businesses for alleged violations of the stay-at-home guidelines. Many of the comments posted in response, suggest karmic “retaliation against the people who utilized the county’s inbox for tips about non-essential businesses that stayed open.”
Nine hundred nervous snitches in St. Louis
The controversy kicked into high gear when Jared Totsch posted “Here ya go. The gallery of snitches, busybodies, and employees who rat out their own neighbors and employers over the Panic-demic” on Facebook.
He told reporters he knew what kind of trouble he was stirring up. “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,” he wrote in a statement.
“I released the info in an attempt to discourage such behavior in the future,” he explained. When asked if he felt bad that someone might lose their job, Totsch replied, “I’d call it poetic justice, instant Karma, a dose of their own medicine. What goes around, comes around.”
Totsch believes, the snitches “are now experiencing the same pain that they themselves helped to inflict on those they filed complaints against.”
The county warned the complaints were public records
The data is considered public records, and was released in response to a proper Sunshine Law request, all legal and aboveboard, even though the disclosed data includes “names and contact information of the people making the reports.” Many of the messages asked for anonymity but that doesn’t matter. None of the snitches realized that when the website warned them that the data could be released to the public, it includes Facebook too.
According to “Patricia,” one of the complainers, “We’re in a society where doing what’s right doesn’t always get rewarded.” The flip side of the coin is that every business is essential to it’s owners and employees. Without all the facts you can’t always say for sure if a particular business is following the rules or not and everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty.
If someone chooses to point a finger, then they should be prepared to take the consequences of their actions. Especially when the snitches were clearly warned that they wouldn’t be anonymous, no matter what they asked in their message.
Patricia has lupus and two others in her household have autoimmune issues making them exceptionally vulnerable. “We have to be extra careful because we don’t have the strength to fight this,” she asserts. “I saw a lot of businesses that were non-essential that were open and had lines outside, parking lots filled as if the order didn’t matter to them.” Instead of simply avoiding those places, she turned them in.
The snitches were doing what the county asked
Each and every one of the whistleblowers were doing what the county wanted them to, rat on “non-compliant businesses.” That’s exactly why they set up the tip line. They got “more than 900 tips from the public,” as confirmed by the released data. Many of the snitches were ratting out their employers or family members. They especially wanted their names withheld knowing there would be backlash.
Anyone submitting a complaint had to click to acknowledge a disclaimer clearly stating “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.” Even so, Patricia “never expected it to end up on Facebook.”
“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 laments.
A legitimate request
Jared Totsch filed a legitimate request for the documents. Missouri’s Sunshine Law gives any member of the public the right to request records made or received by any public agency.
There are exceptions, including “a clause allowing tips to municipal hotlines about abuse and wrongdoing to be withheld.” The county took a look and after a review of the request, “found no reason to withhold information about who sent the tips.” The snitches were warned and that’s all that matters.
Doug Moore, the county’s director of communications, admits, “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).” Hiding the information “goes against what journalists push us to be – as transparent as possible.”
Patricia learned a hard lesson from the experience. “When there is something that happens next time, I’m not going to feel safe or protected enough to call the local authorities.”