This article was originally published on: Ctpost
Original Article: Is there no privacy in social media?
Written by:Ken Dixon
Don’t you hate it when you’re caught deleting damning emails, then you blame the boss?
Bruce Adams, the legal counsel for Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, essentially threw Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Capitol legal counsel — Karen Buffkin — under the bus.
The scene was a small meeting room across from the Capitol. The spectators were few when Adams, the former acting state banks commissioner and chief lawyer for the Department of Banking, waffled and wavered in front of a Freedom of Information Commission hearing officer on his use of social media to criticize a western Indian tribes’ pay-day lending operation.
He said Buffkin, whom he referred to as “boss,” made him do it. Isn’t that anti-social media?
He also pointed the finger at his newborn baby, whom he blamed for the fatigue in the fall of 2015, when he tried to cover his digital tracks amid a nasty, lingering dispute with the Otoe-Missouria Tribal Nation of Oklahoma. If the FOIC hearing officer upholds that social media used for public business is a public record, Adams should be found in the wrong and public officials throughout the state will be put on notice about what they should and shouldn’t do in the realm of social media
From the hearing transcript:
Q: You don’t dispute that the (Facebook post) was deleted on September 18?
A: At 9:07 a.m., is that what you’re saying?
A: I don’t dispute that.
Q: When was the FOIA request made?
A: Looks like it came in on September 15.”
It’ll be another couple months before the hearing officer decides what to recommend to the full commission, but Adams is hanging out to dry, at this point.
Adams claimed he was sleep-deprived and coping with the logistics of his growing family when the public-documents request came in from a lawyer for the Otoe-Missouria who had found posts on Facebook and Twitter that criticized the tribe, which now wants Adams to be liable for civil penalties for failing to properly retain public records.
The Banking Department and the tribe have been battling over the issue of tribal immunity and their pay-day loan companies called Clear Creek Lending and Great Plains Lending, which charge Connecticut residents high-interest, short terms as high as 449 percent. Connecticut limits loan amounts to 12 percent.
The Banking Department tried to penalize the tribe, but a Superior Court judge upheld the issue of tribal immunity for the Otoe-Missouria.
The battle over the alleged usury has clearly been eclipsed by Adams’ open-records case before the FOIC. Assistant attorneys general defending Adams said he was simply stating his personal views of the conflict.
Adams’ posts included overt criticism of the tribe, and he asked his Twitter followers to contact the Banking Department with complaints about pay-day loans.
“Just imagine the public reaction if CT purposefully set up an Internet payday lender to violate tribal lending laws,” was one of posts that Adams deleted, but the tribe saved screen shots for the benefit of FOIC Staff Attorney Lisa Siegel, the hearing officer. She will decide whether Adams’ deleted posts are work-related public property.
“After engaging in an adversarial and negative social media campaign against certain lawful tribal lending activities, the Lieutenant Governor’s Counsel … covered up his smear campaign by intentionally and knowingly deleting his numerous social media posts about these issues,” the tribe’s legal team wrote in a post-hearing memorandum last week. “As a long-standing and high ranking public official and government attorney fully knowledgeable of the State’s open records laws, Adams admittedly knew better than to delete his records when faced with public disclosure pursuant to a Freedom of Information request.”
During the hearings, Adams said Buffkin ordered him to take down his posts critical of the tribe. Buffkin — whose office is right across from the governor on the second floor of the Capitol and who had to sit through hours and hours of the FOIC when she could have actually been working for the state of Connecticut — denied having done so.
Memory is a fickle thing. Certainly it is for Adams. The tribe, pursuing this case with an aggressive team of lawyers led by Jeffrey White, isn’t forgetting anything in its campaign. The people of Connecticut will likely end up with a precedent-setting case on what, if anything, is private in the realm of social media, public-documents law, and the First Amendment.