Some People Who Reported Shutdown Violations to the Costumed Mafia Now Regret Their Decision
“The King County woman, who lives on the east side of Lake Washington, said she’ll never again report anything to the state”
Some people who reported suspected violations of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home proclamations are receiving death threats and harassment after their names and contact information were released by the state and made public on social media by people who obtained the information.
Nine spreadsheets containing thousands of names, phone numbers and email addresses were posted on Facebook pages Wednesday.
On Thursday, hundreds of people listed on the documents received an email titled, “Lowlife scumbag whistleblower snitches,” which singled out people who complained about businesses in the Sumner and Puyallup areas.
The email writer, who identified themselves as “Julie Johnson,” called the recipients derogatory names and pointed out nine people who made more than one complaint. The e-mailer did not immediately respond to an interview request from The News Tribune.
Tacoma resident Aram West received the email on Thursday. He had made a complaint about a Tacoma pawn shop that was open and operating in late March.
West thought his complaint would remain anonymous.
“I would have assumed that a state website would have that under control,” he said, referring to nondisclosure of identities.
Since he made the complaint in March, emotions and the political climate around stay-at-home orders designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus have increased across the nation.
“At the time, people were also not as unhinged as they are now,” West told The News Tribune. “I didn’t think people would get quite this extreme.”
One of the Facebook pages that posted the spreadsheets, Reopen Washington State, promotes the termination of stay-at-home orders and demands the reopening of businesses.
“Here you go Washingtonians: 25,000+ ‘violations’ your neighbors reported on you through the Governor’s gestapo line, maintained by the state military department,” stated the Reopen Washington State post that first displayed the spreadsheets.
An administrator with the Reopen Washington State Facebook page acknowledged a request from The News Tribune for an interview or statement late on Friday but as of noon Saturday had not provided one.
Following the disclosure on Wednesday, a King County woman received more than 30 death threats and other harassing messages, she said. In one phone message she forwarded to The News Tribune, a male caller identifies as an associate of the business she reported for being open.
“You got 48 hours to get the (expletive) out of Washington or I’m coming for you,” the caller states.
The King County woman, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of more harassment, doesn’t believe the message was from the business. She said she was fairly high up on the list and thinks that’s why she’s been getting so many messages.
“I’m getting bombarded,” she said Friday. “It’s terrifying. It’s really scary. It’s causing me a lot of stress.”
In another phone message, a female caller expresses hopes that the King County woman chokes on the virus.
“So glad it’s public disclosure,” the caller says.
An Arlington woman who reported an open massage parlor in late March said she was a recipient of emails about the spreadsheet releases beginning on Wednesday. One was from Julie Johnson.
The Arlington woman asked to remain anonymous for fear of further retribution.
More than 25 individuals made public disclosure requests for the violation information now being posted online, according to Chelsea Hodgson, a spokeswoman for the state’s COVID-19 Response Joint Information Center.
The nine spreadsheets include headings like “Social distancing not followed,” “large gatherings,” “restaurant violations” and others. The spreadsheet that seems to have generated the vitriolic responses is titled “Non-essential biz open.”
The website page where citizens can report violations has a clear statement on privacy.
“All of the information collected at this site is considered public information,” the disclaimer states. “All of the information collected at this site is considered public information and may be subject to inspection and copying by members of the public, per RCW 42.56.”
The Arlington resident said she didn’t see a disclaimer when she filled out the form.
“It never occurred to me that the Governor’s Office would be like, ‘Yes, please tell us about these things and then we can tell everybody you put this out so they can go hunt you down,’” the woman said. “That would have required a more prominent disclaimer that said, ‘By the way, if you give me your name and email and phone number, we’re going to be able to give that out to anyone who wants it.’ That was nowhere on the form.”
It turns out the disclaimer was added after the page was activated on March 30, according to research by The News Tribune. It was not present on the form as late as March 31, according to snapshots made by the waybackmachine internet archive.
On Saturday, Hodgson said the disclaimer was added sometime on March 31.
“Though the form indicates the information contained in the form is subject to public disclosure, additional steps have been taken to make clear on the complaint form that complaints are subject to public disclosure,” Hodgson said Friday. “Individuals may also submit a complaint anonymously.”
Hodgson said it was possible to fill out the form in March and remain anonymous. However, the submission would not be considered essential.
“Those are required so there can be a response to the business,” Hogson said Saturday.
The Arlington woman said she was just trying to do the right thing when she reported the massage parlor. She figured her name and contact information would be redacted if anyone asked for it.
“It’s kind of disappointing,” she said. “They need to make an even bigger disclaimer that says, ‘Your contact information is optional and understand that we will release it to anyone who asks for it.’”
The King County woman, who lives on the east side of Lake Washington, said she’ll never again report anything to the state.
“There’s no way I would have filled that out had that been on there,” she said, referring to the disclaimer. She filed her complaint on March 30.
“I was trying to be a good citizen and be helpful and save lives, and this is the thanks I get for it,” she said. “I would never submit anything to the state again. I don’t feel like my information was protected.”
Gov. Jay Inslee’s office did not respond to repeated requests for information on Friday.
Source: The News Tribute