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Shielding names of police, prosecutors in online tax records divides lawmakers

Posted June 26

— 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.

15 Comments

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  • Itsthelaw Jun 30, 12:50 p.m.

    Put your property in a trust and then call it whatever you want. Problem solved.

  • jscott13 Jun 28, 2:11 p.m.

    And good for Paul Stam!! He is my representative and he opposes this ridiculous bill. If you read the article about this kidnapping, the man who orchestrated it had also previously ordered a hit on someone in the family of his defense attorney. Why, then, aren't defense attorneys on Malone's list.

  • jscott13 Jun 28, 1:21 p.m.

    If these people can request to have their names removed from public records, then ALL of us should have that right!!!! A Person is correct in saying that they do feel that they are above the rest of us and that needs to stop as well. What happened to that poor father in Wake Forest is sad, but it is very unusual. The way to avoid these types of situations is for police, DA's and so on to change their attitudes and behavior.

  • dsdaughtry Jun 27, 11:25 p.m.

    I am against shielding any names for public record. Perhaps what counties should do is charge an online fee to search records. This means there would be a payment trail as to who requested the documents. Additionally it could add some much needed revenue to counties that maintain these websites.

  • A person Jun 27, 10:30 a.m.

    Shielding their names segregates them. They already feel that they are above the rest of the population and have an elitist like attitude, though no one understands why.

  • SaysWhoNC Jun 27, 10:29 a.m.

    This is a classic case of one terrible incident leading to a misguided overreaction and a bad law.

  • Lightfoot3 Jun 27, 9:01 a.m.

    Nope. They should be public, just like everyone else.

  • sinenomine Jun 27, 8:55 a.m.

    "All judicial personnel always seek preferential treatment."

    Not so in my experience. In my business I've had occasion to call judges and prosecutors at home and never had a problem finding them in the phone book.

  • dwntwnboy2 Jun 27, 8:15 a.m.

    They willing to extend that to the rest of the public of just certain people in the right jobs??

  • vaulter Jun 26, 10:47 p.m.

    Really? These are the groups of people you are concerned with about not paying taxes?

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