Shielding names of police, prosecutors in online tax records divides lawmakers
Posted June 26
Raleigh, N.C. — After some top Republican lawmakers expressed reservations Thursday about a proposal that would allow law enforcement officers and prosecutors to request that their names, addresses and phone numbers be removed from local websites that display tax records, the sponsor pulled the bill from the House floor.
Rep. Chris Malone, R-Wake, said he would work with his colleagues to address their concerns before bringing it back for a floor vote next week.
Under the bill, the property tax information regarding a law enforcement official would remain a public record, but it would not be displayed online once a police officer, deputy, magistrate, state or federal judge or state or federal prosecutor asked for it to be removed.
The measure was crafted is in response to the April kidnapping of Frank Janssen, the father of a Wake County assistant district attorney. Malone said he also has received complaints about daily threats faced by law enforcement.
"We want to scale back the threats," Malone said. "It will make them feel more safe."
Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said counties would spend millions of dollars managing databases where some names were out in the open and others weren't.
"This idea that you can have two different sets of records electronically – one at the courthouse and the other online – is just completely unworkable," Stam said.
Other House members had a more basic disagreement with the bill, saying it's not fair to single out a few groups of people for special treatment. Social workers, divorce attorneys and even legislative staffers could argue that they face threats from angry people and would benefit from the added privacy of having their names taken off city or county websites, said Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry.
"Where do we stop taking people off (the public websites)?" Stevens asked.
Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, urged lawmakers to support the bill, saying law enforcement backs the measure and any problems could be fixed when the Senate considers it.
"This isn't just theory; this is a real thing," Moore said, citing the Wake County kidnapping. "It's not theory about what might happen or what's possible. It's already happened."
Lawmakers continued to question how Malone came up with the group that could request their names be taken offline.
"The answer is simple," he replied, "we had to stop somewhere."
But he then withdrew the bill until the questions could be addressed.