REASONS AND CONDITIONS REGARDING IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION OF USERS OF THE FORUM

(Originally posted November, 2009, Updated March 25, 2012) On Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 a court ruling was issued from the county of Jefferson County Missouri to dismiss the case of the Concerned Citizens for Crystal City vs. the city of Crystal City, Missouri.  The case was dismissed because the plaintiffs (CCCC) refused to provide information to the intervenor that could identify persons that posted information anonymously to the website's forum.  

In Jack Ginnever's affidavit there are two sections that specifically address (a) why the information should not be unconditionally divulged and (b) the conditions that should be in place to divulge that information.

Here is an excerpt from the affidavit that gives the reasons why the information should not be unconditionally divulged:

  • The people who post to the forum have signed contracts with Jack Ginnever in which it is stated that he will not divulge the information to any third party without their consent. If he divulges that information, he could be subject to dozens or hundreds of lawsuits for breach of contract which will bankrupt him in defending himself.
  • Jack Ginnever have been personally threatened to be sued several times since the smelter project was announced and he voiced his opposition to it.
  • The court order requiring Jack Ginnever to produce this identifying information is not written specifically enough to shield him from such lawsuits.
  • People in the community have told Jack Ginnever that they will lose their livelihoods if their identities are made known.   Several people have told him that they fear the revelation of their identities would affect their opportunities at work or even cause them to be fired.
  • People in the community have told Jack Ginnever they fear harassment to their bodies and homes if their identities are made known.   Jack Ginnever can state several situations where the city of Crystal City has treated citizens of the city adversely because of their viewpoints.   There have also been numerous acts of vandalism that have occurred to the properties of people that have displayed “No Smelter” signs in their yards.  Many of these acts have been reported to and documented by the Crystal City Police Department.  Verbal threats of harassment have also been documented.

Here is an excerpt from the affidavit that gives the conditions under which the information could be divulged:

  • If the Intervenor identifies specific posts on the forum and
  • the Intervenor identifies the reasons that the posts would be relevant to the Sunshine Law and
  • the court agrees with the Intervenor’s reasons for why the posts would be relevant to the Sunshine Law and
  • the court issues an order to release the information that could identify the users that posted the information relevant to the Sunshine Law and
  • the court provides a strict protective order
then Jack Ginnever will provide information to the Intervenor to help them identify the individual that created the posting on the website.

Sunshine Law Case Dismissed

(Originally posted November, 2009, Updated March 25, 2012) On Wednesday, November 25th, 2009, visiting judge Benjamin Lewis from Cape Girardeau, Missouri ruled to dismiss the better than two year old Sunshine Law case filed by the Concerned Citizens for Crystal City against the city of Crystal City, Missouri.  

The ruling was faxed to CCCC lawyers at 5:24 p.m. on the same day of the hearing that was held at 10:00 a.m. at the Jefferson County courthouse in Hillsboro, Missouri.   The official ruling can be found here.  The ruling references a previous ruling from June of 2009.

The case was dismissed primarily because the webmaster of www.clearpillar.com and author of this website posting, Jack Ginnever, objected to providing information that could reveal the identities of anonymous posters on the website's forum.  The lawyers representing the Intervenor, contended that all the identities of these individuals were necessary in order for them to create it's defense even though all of the content of the forum postings are available to anyone that can access the Internet.

The main objection to revealing the identities of the users that produced the forum postings is that each and every user of the forum agreed to a contract when they signed up to use the forum.   There is a legal and moral obligation to abide by that contract because the posters of the forum believe that their identities will be protected.  That is the purpose of this forum.  If the identities of the users were known they would not have been so open and passionate about their feelings regarding the controversial smelter project in Crystal City.  

Contrary to the arguments of the Intervenor's lawyers, Jack Ginnever did not solicit information from the public, did not gather identity information for his own benefit and did not favor anti-smelter or pro-smelter users of the forum.  The purpose of the forum was to allow civil conversation among the users of the forum without fear of retribution.

In an affidavit from Jack Ginnever there are two sections that detail (a) the reasons that the identifying information should not be unconditionally revealed and (b) the conditions under which the identifying information could be provided.  Click here (see numbers 21 and 22) to see the entire original affidavit or here to see only those reasons and conditions.

The State Audit of Crystal City released on October 14th, 2009 was also provided as supporting evidence that the city violated the Sunshine Law.  It was not mentioned in the ruling.

The Concerned Citizens for Crystal City appealed the ruling.




CONCERNED CITIZENS FOR CRYSTAL CITY VS. THE CITY OF CRYSTAL CITY

(Originally posted July, 2008, Updated March 25, 2012) Concerned Citizens for Crystal City (C4) filed a lawsuit in November of 2007 alleging that Crystal City had violated Sunshine Law statutes.  Eight months later, on July 24, 2008 the law firm representing C4 filed a motion stating that Crystal City had still failed to produce documents relevant to the secretly negotiated iron ore smelter project.  

Crystal City had failed to produce any documents until July 16, 2008.  And this was done only after the C4 law firm filed a Motion to Compel and a Motion for Sanctions.  The county court ordered on June 25, 2008 that Crystal City comply with the request.

The documents that are still missing are:

  • Calendars from any of the defendants (e.g. the Mayor, Bob French, Debbie Johns or council members)
  • Emails or letters from the Mayor or Debbie Johns
  • Documents from any council members from January 2006 to September 2007

Here is the latest motion from C4's law firm and here is the letter to the Crystal City attorney describing the city's lack of compliance.