The Hamburg Central School District is not trying to intimidate a community blogger by trying to find out his or her identity, the district’s lawyer said Friday.
The school district served a subpoena on Google, asking the company to identify who runs the Hamburg Educational Ethics blog. The person who maintains the blog, which often posts comments that are anti-school administration, is known as “Concerned Hamburger.”
The subpoena also asked for the identities of two people who post to the blog, “Klozman” and “Super.”
“The subpoena was an attempt to gain information in our civil lawsuit relating to the illegal recording of an executive session,” said attorney Richard Sullivan. “It has nothing to do with intimidating [anyone].”
But the anonymous blogger, Concerned Hamburger, and Klozman and Super, see the subpoena as an affront to the First Amendment.
“We live in a country that was founded on principles of Freedom, Justice and Liberty. I have relatives who fought and lost their lives for this great land, and the likes of the Hamburg School District will not trample on the precious freedoms I and others enjoy and defend,” Concerned Hamburger said in an email to The Buffalo News.
Sullivan said the subpoena is part of the legal process and has nothing to do with denying anyone’s freedom of expression.
“It’s not a significant First Amendment issue,” he said. “That’s all pompous nonsense in this case.”
However, the attorney for Concerned Hamburger, Joseph M. Finnerty, is seeking to quash the subpoena on the grounds it violated the First Amendment right to anonymous speech and on grounds that it is defective because it does not state why the disclosure is sought. He also is seeking to have the district pay the attorney’s fees for Concerned Hamburger.
The subpoena is part of the discovery process in the school district’s lawsuit against Sally Stephenson; her daughter Lyndsey Stephenson; and teacher Martha Kavanaugh. The district claims they secretly taped an executive session Sept. 21, 2010, and it is seeking damages from them. The women deny the charge. Since the lawsuit was filed last June, Sally Stephenson has taken a seat on the School Board.
The incident came to light at Tuesday’s School Board budget hearing, when Robert Johnstun identified himself as Super. Johnstun often speaks out on school issues, and he asked for an apology from School Board members for involving him in the suit.
Sullivan said he agreed with Finnerty, the attorney for the three Internet posters, to remove Klozman and Super from the subpoena. He said they were names that appeared as people maintaining blogs, and he denied the district is trying to intimidate them.
“If someone’s going around saying we cost this man a lot of money, that’s not true,” he said.
Sullivan said that it was a violation of the law to tape the executive session and that those who were present at the meeting are angry about the secret taping. He said the district believes Kavanaugh and the two Stephensons “caused that taping to take place.”
He asked why people are not outraged about the taping.
“It’s not a constitutional issue, its a discovery issue in a civil lawsuit. Someone violated the law. We believe we know who did it,” Sullivan said.