Friday, May 20, 2011

emailgate: vbertram@... is not a personal email. what happens when you lie to the police?

This story is reported here first. I believe that it is a courtesy to mention the original source of a story or provide a link when other outlets pick a story up?

On Saturday May 14, two officers of the Columbia County Sheriff's department visited open government activist Martin Roby. The officers were responding to a complaint by Valerie Bertram, supervisor of the town of Stuyvesant and chair of the public safety committee Columbia County Board of Supervisors. Here is Mr. Roby's letter to the Sheriff.

Martin Roby is fresh off a series of victories in his campaign for open government locally, getting positive opinions from Robert Freeman supporting his call to release the financial information, including deposit slips and bank records without redaction.

The public safety committee chaired by Valerie Bertram deals with employment and other matters relating to the Sheriff's department, as you can see here and here.

Ms. Bertram claimed that Martin Roby sent her too many emails, or something, and that he was using her private email, the one listed on the County website here on the Stuyvesant page. Ms. Bertram never asked Mr. Roby to stop sending emails. There is nothing remotely threatening in any email sent by Mr. Roby.

It would appear that Ms. Bertram leveraged her position as chair of the public safety committee to get officers to possibly intimidate her political opponent based on false infromation. The officers would not have assumed the information to be false, or would have had trouble questioning the information, given her position. The responding officers did not in fact take any adverse actions against Mr. Roby and seemed to have acted appropriately given the information available at the time. If they had known that the email address is clearly public and that there is nothing remotely offensive or that the emails contain nothing in any way beyond the norm of political discourse, they might not have called on Mr. Roby at his residence to ask him a series of questions, run his criminal record.

Her report to the officers on Saturday (or before) contained false information: the email is not private, there is no reason to feel threatened. The fact that Ms. Bertram's accusation is ludicrous is perhaps less interesting than that it is false.

Mr. Roby did not harass Ms. Bertram. If he sent her an inappropriate email, she will be able to produce it. If there is an investigation of harassment under way at the sheriff's office, they would be willing to state that fact. There is no such investigation.

Did Valerie Bertram say that is a private email account? Why is it published on the county website? If someone who is not the chair of the public safety committee were to complain about unwanted email, what would happen?

Can I get the sheriff to send someone over to Barack Obama and ask him to stop emailing me requests to donate to Democratic candidates? Could they please stop by Kinderhook Bank and explain that I do not need a notice both when I issue an online banking payment and when the check actually goes out and that a single email would suffice? Also, please let Yelp know that I don't want any more updates on that restaurant I reviewed in 2009 because I think I never actually ate there.

And if Mr. Roby would like appeal any denied or ignored FOIL submissions, please pass them to me.  I can post them on this blog . Town attorneys do read this blog pretty regularly. Perhaps Mr. David R. Everett Whiteman Osterman & Hanna (WOH.COM) will see the FOIL appeals here and forward Mr. Roby's requests to Ms. Bertram?

This problem follows on the heals of Ms. Bertram's use of her position as the chair of the County Ethics board. As I said, the hole in the roof of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors's house gets bigger and more water comes in.

Don't forget this. I would like a statement from the town board as to whether or not equal protection and the rule of law are the official positions of the town government or if they are operate according to some other criteria.

Is it to much to ask for an up or down vote on the rule of law?

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