A Bucks County anti-union activist is seeking the home addresses of more than 200,000 state employees through the Pennsylvania Right to Know law. He’s gotten many already, and he may well get the rest.
Simon Campbell is president of a group called the Pennsylvanians for Union Reform that wants to change state labor laws that he says favor unions. To make his pitch to state employees, he’s made a Right-to-Know request for the home addresses of all 230,000 thousand members of the state employees retirement system.
The retirement system refused to part with most of those addresses, so the issue is now before the state’s office of open records.
It might seem strange to think that if you take a clerical job with a state agency, your home address is discoverable to anybody making a Right-to-Know request.
But attorney Melissa Melewsky of the Pennsylvania News Media Association says there are pending court cases on whether addresses must be provided, and early rulings are tilting toward disclosure. She notes that your home address is pretty easy to find, whether you’re a state employee or not.
“Voter registration records, which include home address, date of birth and a number of other identifiers, are expressly public,” Melewsky said. “Property tax records also include name and home address, and they’re also expressly public … so, I don’t think it should be a surprise to anyone that home addresses are available by law in Pennsylvania.”
There’s public, and public
But Wythe Keever of the Pennsylvania State Education Association said Campbell’s request represents a different level of disclosure.
“While any single employee’s address might be hunted down on the Internet, or on tax rolls or voters’ lists at the county courthouse, nothing other than the Right To Know (law) allows the release of all school employee home addresses in one fell swoop in that compiled format,” Keever said.
Melewsky and Campbell note that voter registration records are available in electronic format and that political campaigns regularly get them for targeted mailings.
There are established exceptions for the addresses of judges and law enforcement officers. Campbell says he only wants to send a mailing, and has established a link on his website for any state employee who wants to be excluded from his Right-to-Know request. He promises to honor that request.
The state Office of Open Records didn’t respond to a request for comment. It is expected to render a decision on Campbell’s appeal soon.