Stupidest Lawsuit of the Week: Vernon Township files suit in Social Security numbers breach that they caused; accuses the recipients of violating employee privacy
Jessica Masulli Reyes reports that Vernon Township in New Jersey is suing the recipients of an inadequately redacted email attachment with town employees’ Social Security numbers. They are also reportedly suing the newspaper that published a story about the breach.
The lawsuit, filed by Kevin Kelly in state Superior Court in Newton on Friday, is seeking financial compensation, as well as stopping the individuals — Sally Rinker, Jesse Wolosky, Curious George (anonymous name), Lynn Van Gorder and Sandra Ooms — from disseminating the confidential information.
The lawsuit stems from an incident reported in the New Jersey Herald on Friday about these individuals who made Open Public Records Act requests to the township for payroll information. Municipal Clerk Sue Nelson responded by sending an attachment that she believed redacted the Social Security numbers and other personal information, but those hidden columns in the document were still visible.
The town alleges that viewing all columns and data on a spreadsheet sent them to is an “intentional invasion of (employee’s) privacy and constitutional rights.” So if you open a file the government sends you, you’re intentionally invading privacy and constitutional rights? I don’t think so.
The judge was not convinced and declined to issue the order sought by the township, although he noted that anyone misusing the information might be subject to criminal penalties and/or civil damages.
Herald Publisher Jack Findley said, “I think that by trying to place the blame on the recipients of these documents, Kevin Kelly’s lawsuit is entirely frivolous. He should explain on what grounds he is pursuing this lawsuit which does nothing but waste the taxpayers’ money and township resources. If Kelly is trying to divert attention away from himself, it looks like his tactic backfired.”
Jesse Wolosky and Sally Rinker are also arguing that the blame should instead be placed on Vernon, rather than on those who received the documents under OPRA.
Read more on The New Jersey Herald.