Hello. My name is Simon Campbell and I’m a recovering Right to Know Requester. After witnessing the appalling behavior of the state teachers’ Union (PSEA) this past year I should probably form a self-help group just so I can say that! Case in point: PSEA’s lawsuit against the Office of Open Records (OOR) to try and stop home addresses of school employees from being released under the law.
Before this topic can be discussed rationally one has to mentally discard the emotional hysteria that PSEA like to conjure up. In today’s world just about anyone can look up the home address of anyone by going on the internet.
Searching whitepages.com will find most people quickly. Property records are public under the law too. For example, go to the official Dauphin County government website and you can search by name for any homeowner’s address. And to obtain someone’s home address on a voter roll you merely have to say that you only intend to use it for political purposes and not publish it online and it will be released to you. In other words there is no inherent additional security risk to most people from having their address released under the Right-to-Know Law as opposed to any other medium.
Given this context why did PSEA sue the OOR? The answer is political. I am an unapologetic critic of the teachers’ Union. If it were down to me I would de-certify this self-serving political organization. They are the ones behind the nightmare public employee pension bailout that is coming. They believe in throwing innocent children out of school on strikes, and they believe in forcing non-union employees to pay union dues (so-called "fair share fees") as a condition of their employment.
It is the latter point that triggered the lawsuit. You see, every year I represent forced union dues victims in arbitration hearings over the amount of the coerced payments. PSEA don’t like it. I have an annoying tendency to do things like subpoena the PSEA president even though I’m not a lawyer. In recent years the Union has been refunding a number of teachers their forced union dues just to get rid of me. So I started to put in Right-to-Know requests of school districts around Pennsylvania to obtain the addresses of forced union dues victims to facilitate an advocacy effort against this coercive state law. The Union wanted to shut me down so they sued OOR amid hysterical and asinine claims of security risks to all school employees if home addresses were released to the public.
But they didn’t do it alone. There is no question in my mind that PSEA coordinated their political attack with the tacit assistance of the Governor’s Office. How do I know? Because I started to put in requests for home addresses of other public employees just to see who was singing from the PSEA song book. I requested Ed Rendell’s home address. His office denied it under the law claiming a security risk. Yet in the same letter they wrote that Governor Rendell "requested" that his private address be released to me "outside the RTKL" which is a joke. Rendell just wanted to please his teacher union campaign contributors yet avoid a court battle with me. You can read this Monty Python like letter from the Governor’s Office at the "RTKL" webpage on www.stopteacherstrikes.org. Additional revealing information about how PSEA’s lawyers falsified statements to the Court is also available.
Interestingly I tested OOR to check for consistency. I requested Terry Mutchler’s home address. It got released to me. The point to this story is that a self-serving organization called PSEA had a political agenda and the rights of the public got trampled on. Now that PSEA’s case has been dismissed by the Court I need to make some more Right-to-Know requests. Don’t worry; nobody will be at risk from it. Well, nobody except maybe the teachers’ Union.
Simon Campbell is president of StopTeacherStrikes, Inc., and an opponent of coerced unionism.