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Town of Bethel Says FOIA Law Allows Residents’ Email Addresses to Be Revealed to ‘Individuals or Organizations’ If They ‘Opted In’ to Receive the Town Newsletter

Report by Paula Antolini, July 31, 2019, 10:08PM EDT

It seems that residents must now choose between receiving the Town of Bethel newsletter information to keep them up to date on town issues, or protecting their email address from being revealed to others.

On Wednesday, July 31, 2019, Bethel residents received a “reminder” email from the Town of Bethel (webmaster@bethel-ct.gov) that if they signed up or “opted-in” to receive the Town of Bethel newsletter then their email address may be revealed to “individuals or organizations” under the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1975. (View town email to residents at the bottom of this article.)

In addition, in the past when we attempted to obtain the email addresses (business email addresses, not private email addresses) of two Bethel Selectmen, Richard Straiton and Paul Szatkowski, from secretary Dionne Craig, we were told there “is none” and we were directed to send inquires to secretary Dionne Craig and she would forward the emails to the selectmen.

So there is no method by which residents can directly contact our two selectmen privately.

First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker (KnickerbockerM@bethel-ct.gov) confirmed this in a recent email, and said, “Ms. Craig was correct in refusing to send you the private email addresses of the two Selectmen. They do not use official town email addresses, and as a matter of policy this office does not give out their private email addresses to anyone. The normal procedure is to contact Ms. Craig and have her relay messages to them. This policy applies to anyone wishing to speak with them. Your other option, of course, is to look up their phone numbers in the White Pages and call them. They are both listed.”

So basically the Selectmen email addresses are protected but residents’ email addresses are not, and are subject to FOIA laws, and residents’ email addresses can be revealed to anyone if they simply send in an FOIA request. A resident has to “opt out” of receiving Town of Bethel newsletters if they do not want their email address revealed to others. This means they then will not receive town information contained in the newsletters. Should residents have to choose between the two?

View the email below:

“Dear Bethel resident,

“Thank you for signing up to receive news and announcements from the Town of Bethel.

“We are writing to you today to remind you that by “opting in” to this mailing list, you are aware that your email address may be revealed to individuals or organizations under the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1975. This is because the newsletter is produced using taxpayer supplied equipment by town employees, and is therefore subject to the provisions of FOI law. Since some respondents signed up a few years ago, we are sending this reminder to ensure all are aware of FOI law. 

“If you no longer wish to receive Bethel newsletters, simply click the “Unsubscribe” link below. 

“Thank you.

“Click here to unsubscibe” 

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