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Social Distancing Snitches in Missouri Receive the Greatest Disinfectant: Sunshine Laws

Originally posted by Haley Kennington on Kennington Press May 4th, 2020.

Names and addresses of close to 1,000 tipsters who reported individuals, businesses, and even their own employers as not adhering to St. Louis County Missouri’s guidelines for social distancing were released after a request that the reports be made public under the Sunshine Law. The tipsters thought they were reporting under anonymity when submitting their report online and via email. Unfortunately for the tipsters, the report form explains in the terms and conditions that all information submitted can be shared publicly. OOPS.

“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.”Disclaimer from submission form

Some specifically asked in their reports to not be named and are now publicly exposed to neighbors, friends, and employers as having reported them for not following social distancing guidelines.

In March, St. Louis County Missouri urged citizens to report any individuals or businesses they observed breaking the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines laid out by the Director of Health in St. Louis. The website was flooded with tips.

According to the state’s official website, “Sunshine requests are for citizens to request information regarding economic development activities undertaken by SLDC and its constituent agencies for the City of Saint Louis”. Requests can be made for public records to be released on the St.Louis-Mo.gov website under statutes from chapter 610, sections 610.010 to 610.030.

The tips resulted in claims being filed against 29 businesses who were all sent violation letters in April.

One of the now doxed tipsters, “Patricia” spoke with local NBC News affiliate KSDK’s PJ Randhawa explaining she’s now afraid that she may become a victim of some form of retaliation due to her reports of businesses not practicing social distancing guidelines being aired to the public.

“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 said.

“What did you get out of sharing the info on who did it?” she continued. “It’s asinine and I have to question, whoever shared the list… what were your motives?”

Patricia told KSDK if she’s got to answer for her finger pointing, she doesn’t feel she can stand by her own convictions and has no plans to report others in the future.

“When there is something that happens next time, I’m not going to feel safe or protected enough to call the local authorities.”

Not all heroes wear capes.

In stark contrast to those who wanted to hide behind a screen and keyboard while they told on their loved ones, neighbors, and employers, one man shared the now-public records via his Facebook page. Jared Totsch proudly explained why he was airing out the tipster’s reports writing in a Facebook post:

“Here ya go. The gallery of snitches, busybodies, and employees who rat out their own neighbors and employers over the Panic-demic.”

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Totsch further explained to the news affiliate, “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,” wrote Totsch.

“I released the info in an attempt to discourage such behavior in the future,” Totsch declared.

The news station asked Totsch how he felt about the possibility that some employees who reported their own employers might lose their job. “I’d call it poetic justice, instant Karma, a dose of their own medicine. What goes around, comes around. They are now experiencing the same pain that they themselves helped to inflict on those they filed complaints against.”

On Totsch’s personal Facebook page he received “feedback” from citizens who were upset he had shared the PUBLIC information in a Facebook group. Totsch told KSDK he’d seen the report of tips and tipsters information on a post in a separate Facebook group and then shared the information, but that he wasn’t the one who filed the request for the tips to be publicized.

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Outspoken Facebook user John Henry Eden decided to take it upon himself to do a search of his own and posted what he believed to be Totsch’s physical address several times on different posts on Totsch’s Facebook page.

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In March, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti gave locals incentive by offering a reward for every person or business you tattled on: “You know the old expression about snitches? Well, in this case, snitches get rewards.”

No rewards or incentives were ever promised to those filing reports in St. Louis County.

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