The names of more than 900 tipsters who spoke up about social distancing violations in Missouri have been splashed all over Facebook — prompting many to fear retaliation, according to a local report.
In response to a Sunshine Law request, St. Louis County released a document that included the names and contact information of people who reported businesses in violation of the state’s stay-at-home order, according to KSDK.
The county government announced the launch of an online form and a dedicated email address, encouraging people to submit such tips in late March, according to the report.
It took just over a week before more than 900 tips funneled in, according to county documents.
Many of the tipsters were employees exposing infractions at their places of employment, who asked that their identities not be revealed because they fear backlash from their bosses and coworkers, the outlet reported.
In mid-April, a person whose Facebook profile name is Jared Totsch shared the entire list — names and all — in a post that was no longer visible Monday, according to the station.
In his initial post, he reportedly wrote that he had filed a Sunshine Law request for the documents, but later stated he re-posted them from a different group that published them earlier.
“Here ya go,” he captioned the post. “The gallery of snitches, busybodies, and employees who rat out their own neighbors and employers over the Panic-demic.”
Totsch told KSDK that if the tipsters “are worried about retaliation, they should have read the fine print which stated their tips would be open public record subject to a Sunshine request.”
“I released the info in an attempt to discourage such behavior in the future,” he added.
When asked how he felt about the possibility of tipsters losing their jobs, Totsch replied, “I’d call it poetic justice, instant karma, a dose of their own medicine.
“What goes around, comes around,” he said. “They are now experiencing the same pain that they themselves helped to inflict on those they filed complaints against.”
The released documents include tips against 29 businesses that were issued violation letters, the station reported.
A woman who only gave her first name, Patricia, told KSDK she decided to lodge a complaint because she has lupus and two people in her home have autoimmune issues — making them vulnerable to the coronavirus.
“I saw a lot of businesses that were non-essential that were open and had lines outside, parking lots filled as if the order didn’t matter to them,” she said. “And that was kinda frustrating.”
Now, Patricia fears she’ll be in hot water for speaking up.
“I’m not only worried about COVID, I’m worried about someone showing up at my door, showing up at my workplace or me getting fired for doing what is right,” she said.
St. Louis County told the local station it released the information to a “broadcast journalist” in response to a Sunshine Law request.
“Our county counselor’s office consulted with the [attorney general]’s office on releasing the list of those who had filed complaints against county businesses,” Doug Moore, the county executive’s director of communications, said in a statement.
“We were told all the information was public and we should not redact (except for HIPAA information),” he said. “Withholding information goes against what journalists push us to be — as transparent as possible.”