WGXC-90.7 FM

Politics vs privacy in the Digital Age

Nov 24, 2010 10:12 am
Toby Rogers of the Daily Mail has a great story today that gets at some of the surreal oddities of the deigital age as it bashes into local politics. In New Baltimore, it turns out, Town Councilman Art Byas told Rogers on Tuesday that he "obtained the private information of 54 town employees from Sally Russo, who originally received the inadvertent email from Town Supervisor Susan O’Rorke."

"It was a turnabout from Monday’s town board meeting, where Byas declined to explain how he got the information," the story goes on. “Two people gave it to me, one of them was Sally Russo.” Byas said Tuesday.

Byas said at Monday’s regular Town Board work meeting that he has not destroyed the email accidentally sent by O’Rorke in October to seven town employees and Russo, who was the only unauthorized person who received it.

Russo could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Byas, one of two Republicans on the town council, who said he does not have an email address, refused to explain to the board how exactly he got the information. He said his attorney advised him not to divulge to the board or the public at large just how or why he obtained the information.

Councilman Chris Norris asked Byas on Monday if he had destroyed the information as Town Attorney David Wukitsch requested of everyone who had received it. Byas replied: “My attorney advised me not to.”

At the Nov. 8 meeting, Byas requested an executive session with the other board members. Councilman Christopher Norris said he could not comment on what happened in the executive session.

Town Clerk Janet Brooks also said she could not comment on the executive session.

Norris asked Byas at the end of the public part of the Nov. 8 meeting if he had the emails in his possession. Byas acknowledged he did, but was waiting “on my attorney’s advice” on how to handle the matter.

O’Rorke, who has apologized to every town employee affected by the matter in writing and in public, was instructed by Wukitsch to tell all members to delete and destroy all copies of the email from their computers.

Everyone said they had, except Byas. O’Rorke said she also got in touch with the state Attorney General’s office over the matter. An Attorney General’s office representative is expected to be present at the Dec. 1 meeting.

Even if Byas was told to destroy the email, he said he would not have anyway. “If everything is destroyed, there is no evidence of anything,” he said.

Byas also said he is out of the loop on some things because O’Rorke has blocked access to his mail. “She illegally held my mail for a month,” he said.

Councilwoman Barbara Finke said Tuesday that if the entire matter had been handled correctly from the beginning, the board wouldn’t be saddled with the issue now.

When asked if she felt comfortable with Byas keeping and the information instead of deleting it, Finke said, “I don’t know if he has the information or not. If his attorney told him not to destroy the information, I can’t override that.”

When asked to name his attorney, Byas said, “I don’t want to say. It’s a private attorney.”

O’Rorke said she is puzzled by Byas’ behavior since the email was inadvertently sent and a public apology was made. “If Art is so concerned about the privacy of the town’s employees, then why would he leak it to the media?” O’Rorke said.
Wave Farm / WGXC Acra Contact Info
Mailing: PO Box 13 Acra, NY 12405
Main Office / Acra Studio
(518) 622-2598
WGXC Office
(518) 697-7400
WGXC Hudson Studio
(518) 828-0290
WGXC Feedback
(518) 212-7509 feedback@wgxc.org
Wave Farm / WGXC Acra Studio: 5662 Route 23 Acra, NY 12405
WGXC Hudson Studio: 369 Warren St. Hudson, NY 12534