Mark Peters has his eye on you

Hey Mark, what's all this business about you making UNC's Director of Local Relations hand over her contact list? All you're going to find out is who wants to know what UNC is doing, in other words: everyone. 

I understand you've also asked the Town of Chapel Hill to share all official e-mail regarding relocating the homeless shelter. I can kind of imagine what you're trying to get at there, but I doubt you'll find anything useful.  So maybe Mayor Foy and the Chancellor Moeser made some kind of arrangement to transfer this land, that's already publicly apparent. What does that prove?  How will that help your neighbors' cause to keep the Interfaith Council's Community House out of the neighborhood?  It almost seems like you want to intimidate public officials, Mark. I'm not sure why.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about (most of you, I hope) here is a public e-mail just like the ones Mark is requesting:

From: Sabrina Oliver <>
Date: April 9, 2010 10:54:37 AM EDT
To: Donna Bell <''>, Ed Harrison <>, Gene Pease <>, Jim Ward <>, Jim Ward <>, Laurin Easthom <>, Mark Kleinschmidt <>, Matt Czajkowski <>, Penny Rich <>, Sallly Greene <>
Subject: Public Records Request 

Hello Mayor and Council Members:
I received a public records request from Mark Peters, who informed me, that in the near future he will be requesting emails between Town Council members and the Manager regarding the IFC shelter. If you have such emails, please forward them to me. Thank you.
Sabrina M. Oliver
Communications and Public Affairs Director
Town of Chapel Hill
405 Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(919) 968-2757
(919) 967-8406 (FAX)

Begin forwarded message:

From: Convissor, Linda 
Sent: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 9:18 PM
To: Convissor, Linda
Subject: UNC: Records Request for Community Email Lists
Last week, the University received a public records request from a Chapel Hill resident for the email address lists I use to communicate with Orange County residents.  Because North Carolina law considers email addresses public records, I am required to provide the names and email addresses to satisfy the request. 
This request came on the heels of an article in the News and Observer that describes experiences that towns in western Wake County have encountered in complying with the public records law.  Like us, they have developed lists of citizen emails for the purpose of improved communication and then have had to make the email addresses public because of a records request. You can read the article at
Each of you receiving this email are either on a list that was developed to communicate with your neighborhood or are part of a “community email” list that I use periodically to communicate University news that you might not know any other way.  Many of you have served as contacts for your neighborhood and/or community group, and I greatly appreciate your efforts to distribute the emails I send. 
Before this request, I have never shared your email address.  I know people value their privacy, and I have respected that.  In most cases I blind copy the addresses to preserve your privacy.   But according to state statute I must provide the email address lists that I now have in my possession. And even if you request that I remove your name, it still must be provided as part of this public records request.
I know this will make some of you uncomfortable, and you may want to be removed from my list to avoid being subject to possible future public records requests. But I’m hoping that, over the years, you’ve found the information that we share valuable enough that you’ll want to stay on the list. Over the past nine years, I have used emails extensively to communicate quickly and easily with you about everything from emergencies, fireworks, jet fly-overs, Carolina North and construction projects.
Later this week, you’ll get an email alerting the community to an emergency preparedness exercise the University will hold in late April.  While the exercise will have little direct impact on the community or even the neighborhoods around campus, we know that people will see and be aware of a concentration of emergency vehicles and want to know what is going on.  Sending out an email in advance will help us spread the word to a larger readership and we hope minimize the number of people who might be worried about what they see during the exercise. 
If you do wish to be removed from my list, let me know and I will remove your name.  If you are a neighborhood or community group contact and want to be removed, I hope that you will try to find someone else who is willing to receive and distribute University emails. 
I have truly enjoyed building a relationship with you and other community members and the feedback I’ve received has been great.  I hope we can build on that relationship in the coming years and continue to strengthen the ties between the University and the community.
Linda Convissor, Director of Local Relations 
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 
CB# 6225 
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-6225 
919-843-5966 (fax) 




It's really quite simple.  There is no directory of local email addresses which we can use to find the email addresses of our neighbors.  I was hoping that we could find some of our neighbor's email addresses in the list.I suspect that if you *really* wanted to know why, then you would have emailed me or called me rather than blindsiding me on the front page of OP.  Had you asked, then you could have at least added that to the initial article. Clearly this post is meant to intimidate me.

those on the UNC list don't want you to have their email address? It may be simple to you, but I consider it an invasion of privacy. If you wanted your neighbors to have the choice of receiving your communications, you could have set up a listserv they could self subscribe to and distributed paper flyers with instructions on how to subscribe. That would have protected the rest of the community against a privacy invasion and allowed you to communicate only with those who are interested.Now that you have a lot of email addresses, what do you intend to do with them?

If the government has made a person's email address public record against his or her will, that is a government problem.  It is not the fault of someone who is attempting to access records that are accessible by law.You're right, I would consider this an invasion of privacy as well.  But the responsibility for that invasion lays at the feet of the public official who conducted business in a way that made these addresses part of the legally accessible public record.  If someone should be considering privacy-protecting measures like a listserv -- which is a good idea -- it is the government.

Public records law (and I'm no lawyer) isn't about the technology used.  It is about public information.  And NC law apparently classifies the email addresses of those people who are signed up for public information to be public records (I'm guessing they'll fix that this year given the misuse here and in Wake).  


The fact of the matter is that any irresponsible leaks of email addresses or other personal information are the result of laws and policies put in place by the government.  They cannot be blamed on private citizens who are merely asking for information to which they are legally allowed access.  This doesn't seem particularly controversial to me, unless you're the type to oppose something like the Freedom of Information Act (which, as others have pointed out, has often been used to expose abuses of power from the right).Also, for what it's worth, if the law specifically mentions "email addresses" then yeah, it is sort of about the technology.  How about offering an RSS feed to which anyone can subscribe anonymously?  Unless the law specifically provided for, say, recording of the IP addresses of subscribers, I don't see how a law about email addresses would have any relevance if a different technology were being used.

Terri:I agree with you, but all correspondence that I've had with Chapel Hill is a matter of Public Record and the University falls under that same reporting requirement.As someone who was around at the beginning of the mass use of e-mail and worked for mostly Progressive Orgs, this is a sticky wicket. I can understand why the messages need to be public record, but I don't get why the e-mail addresses do. I am on hundreds of lists. Perhaps, one day some one will print them out and do their best McCarthy - "On this list..."I subscribe to some Right Wing lists just so I know what kind of Hate Speech is going on, but that doesn't mean I support them by any means.  Although, it's kind of like that secret meeting with Cheney and Oil Execs on the "Environment." We don't really know who was at the table, so we really only know who wasn't.E-mail was built off of RFC 822 and the folks who developed never imagined that it would become what it is now. On the other side, as someone who has administered e-mail, created and managed "Right Wing Watch" list for People For the American Way, there is no way to directly e-mail someone a mass e-mail without it being considered SPAM - unless they subscribed. So the information is public, but my professional and personal opinion is that it is about as useful as a phone book.  I don't see why anyone should be intimidated either way. Although, I do think that Judges don't have a clear understanding of e-mail. In many ways, this would be akin to giving out the Home Address of Enron Employees, because they once received a memo about their 401(k). However, as an IT person for most of my life, we are rarely allowed to have input on things like this. We just have to watch as those who are above us screw it up. 

I haven't seen the list, but I would bet that there are literally hundreds of emails on the list Mark acquired from UNC. How is it even practical for him to know which of those are immediate neighbors of the shelter? He has continued to pose scenarios where the number of temporary beds can expand in the future since there is nothing to stop that from happening. Now he has in his possession information that he can abuse in any number of ways. I don't think he will, but I also don't think the IFC will break their promises.  For the record, I have no problem with Mark asking for the emails between council and neighbors/IFC/UNC regarding Community House. I would have no objection if he had requested the email text of any communications regarding Community House. My objection is theWhat's at issue is the blanket request made for personal information that was voluntarily given to a university official. This is yet another example of opponents of the MLK/Homestead Rd pursuing something that is technically allowable but ethically wrong. For the  record, I am publicly requesting that Mark delete my personal information from the list he acquired. 

And I believe it is ethically wrong to place a men’s homeless shelter next a park, daycares, neighborhoods, student apartments, and the County’s only other at risk overnight facilities.  Regarding the number of emergency beds in use by the IFC:  History has shown that the IFC has increased them over time, starting with 25 beds at their current location and expanding it to over 80 emergency beds at that same location.  This is completely NOT permitted under the Chapel Hill LUMO. In fact the IFC was in violation of this for over a decade.  Comparing the demonstrated past historical actions of an organization and your unfounded fears of an upstanding citizen is downright wrong.    

Terri--everyone has been telling us to talk to people from ALL OVER Chapel Hill, not just our neighbors.  This is a way to do that.  Mark doesn't need to match up emails to physical addresses becasue this is a Chapel Hill-wide issue.  I imagine he'll send out a simple thing that says "hey--this shelter thing is happening.  If you are opposed and/or want more info let me know."  He'll comply with all CAN-SPAM laws.  People will self-select.  And then Mark can go from there.  Again, this happens ALL THE TIME in direct marketing.  It is not ethically wrong.  Mark is trying to connect with citizens in Chapel Hill cheaply and easily for the purpose of trying to discover who wants to continue the conversation. 

Earlier you said "Mark is using legal resources available to him to help us contact more neighbors than we have on our neighborhood lists." Now you're saying he wants to contact the entire county since the UNC list covers more than just Chapel Hill. I'm saying right now that I don't want to receive any emails from your group--even if there is an opt out choice. Opt-in is less invasive of personal privacy and there are any number of ways you could have set that up.

No harm no foul.  Again, no one is trying to force a position on you.  He is trying to find people who agree and want to be contacted.  You do not and do not.  We get it.  Mark will not contact you to ask you if you agree and want more info.  We already have your answer. 

I consider all Chapel Hillians in this 20 sq mile piece of heaven my neighbors.  I'm saying he wants to find people in Chapel Hill who want to hear from him. 

When we're talking about accessing public information, I don't see how you can draw a distinction between something being "technically allowable" and ethical.

Because the law is broken at the moment in that it does not protect what people clearly consider personal info (the email addresses given to governments for the purpose of hearing what the government has to tell us).  I'd love to hear Gerry's take on this, but I imagine they will be fixing this law soon and there won't be a gap anymore.  But for now, what is legal and what is ethical aren't the same and Mark has (apparently) exploited this in the case of the UNC distribution list. btw, your example of harvesting IP addresses is another interesting one.  I'd bet they don't have that covered in the law either but I'd be very unhappy if someone collected those and then used somehow.   When I am not putting myself in public (by petitioning the government, for example), I should have an expectation that my personal info is kept private.

Yeah I tend to agree, the problem is the law itself.  While some people may not appreciate Mark's actions, they were completely legal.  If that is a problem, then the law needs to be changed.  To blame a private citizen is to miss the point -- this is a legislative issue.That was why I mentioned the IP addresses.  Unlike emails, I doubt that IP addresses are specifically accounted for in these open records laws, and so would not be subject to the same requirements regarding recordkeeping and dissemination.   I suppose it would be good at this point for us to determine what laws actually apply here and how they are worded.

The News & Observer article linked at the beginning of this thread is a good synopsis.  The public records law provides that every government document is public unless the law says otherwise. It will take legislative action to change it.

I couldn't seem to locate the link you mentioned, but cool, thanks.  So, what constitutes a "government document" and how does an email
recipient list qualify as that?

Responses to public information requests from UNC are in fascimile-like, graphically-scanned documents.

There is no ability to copy and paste any of the text.  Any information would have manually transcribed. 

I was clear that my intent was to use the list when I was trying to look up someone's email address and I didn't have it.  You are accusing me and continue to accuse me of misusing publicly available information.  Aside from the fact that it is publicly available, no use has even occurred.  

Distributing a paper flyer to all of Chapel Hill is expensive and time and labor intensive.  Sending an email is free and less time intensive.  And better for the environment.  It's a better way for a small grass roots group to communicate.  And Obama's campaign, the genius of which was the way he employed email, shows that email is a better communication tool.  During the last school board campaign, I got dozens of emails from Michelle Brown (now on the school board).  I don't know her and have no idea how she got my email.  Probably from a records request from some other list I am on--I am not sure how her list was derived.  She sent an initial nice mass email saying who she was and what she was about.  She asked me to tell her if I didn't want to hear from her anymore as she would delete me from her list.  Turns out I did want to hear from her (which I didn't know until she brought herself to my attention) and I was glad to get her email.  No problem at all.  I assume if I asked her to take me off her list she would have.  Mark will likely do a similar thing.  Mark is not trying to harrass anyone who does not agree with him; he is trying to find the people who do agree with him and connect them in a meaningful way.   

Ruby--for goodness sakes, this pesonal attack is a ridiculous post of the worst kind.  There is no ulterior motive here.  Many of us who oppose the shelter site, like me, are soccer moms and dads of toddlers and school children, with day jobs and many volunteer activities.  Unlike the IFC, the town, and UNC, we have no staff, no resources, no budget.  We are working on this issue in our free time.  We are as grass roots as it gets.  Mark is using legal resources available to him to help us contact more neighbors than we have on our neighborhood lists.  Anyone who does not want to hear from him will say so and he'll get rid of that address.  But this is a powerful (not to mention LEGAL) tool to help him connect to local people who DO want to hear from him.  By the way, I work in direct marketing and the getting of both physical addresses and email lists is done ALL THE TIME.  If you subscribe to a newspaper, your address information is sold to many kinds of local organizations.  If you own a house, your physical address is picked up by direct marketing companies who scour free public records to mail to you.  I personally worked on three membership campaigns for museums in the Triangle wherein our intial interst mailings and subsequent membership mailings were sent to lists we acquired for free from public records, and for a fee from newspaper and magazine subscriptions.  The getting of address info by request and by sale is really standard operating practice in direct marketing.  People will opt out, and Mark will respect that.Agree or disagree after you look at the evidence, but for goodness sake, do not villify Mark Peters.  He's trying to talk to people in Chapel Hill, and he'll respect anyone who does not want to be part of the conversation.  If anyone wants to question ethics--this ridiculous calling out of Mark Peters by name is a great place to start. 

... then why didn't you call Linda Convissor and ask her for some e-mail outreach tips, Mark? Then why didn't you call the current or former Mayors or Chancellors and ask them if there was anything nefarious about the donation of this land to the Town from UNC.You could have asked them privately, just like you say I could have asked you privately. But this is a conversation I want to have in public, because I think I'm not the only one who is interested in the answer. There's nothing wrong with that.I suspect you would also like to have this conversation in public, or else you would be having coffee with Chris Moran or Mark Kleinschmidt right now instead of battering them here and elsewhere. I'm still curious about what you think you'll find in the e-mail records of the Town Council, and more importantly: how you'll find it. That's a lot of information you've asked for, and as far as I know the Town doesn't have any way to organize it or make it user-friendly (which sucks).For the record, I have no problem with anyone asking for public information. I think that's great. I'm just wondering what you plan to do with the information that it will take considerable work to pull together for you, and what the impact of the request will be. (For example, Linda Convissor thinks some people might unsubscribe from her list now, I don't really have an opinion about whether that's good or bad.)

Let me get this straight. 

You are suggesting that my requesting public records instead of privately asking a public official for his or her recollection justifies a very public personal attack on me on the front page of OP?

And you are suggesting that because the town is inefficient at answering public information requests that the public should not ask for information?

And you believe that citizens should have to justify public information requests?


I suspect you would also like to have this conversation in public, or else you would be having coffee with Chris Moran or Mark Kleinschmidt right now instead of battering them here and elsewhere.

Please support your accusation with actual comments that I have made.  I have focused my comments on facts.  You may be confusing my comments with the comments of others.


I have no problem with anyone asking for public information.

Yet your follow-on sentences say that you do have a problem with it.

Are you going to create a new content tag for "justify your public records request to ruby or else"? And will the "shoot first ask questions later" policy for these tags be a permanent one?  Thankfully I was not out of town.

How is a request for public information tantamount to "intimidation" of public officials?  I'm assuming there were no threats made, but please correct me if I'm wrong here.From where I sit, no citizen should ever feel reluctant to request information that is, by law, available to the public.  Government transparency is a critical component of freedom.  In fact, I say there is intrinsic value in testing a government's ability and willingness to comply with open records laws, whether the information in question has much value or not.

I believe that this post, which starts out with my name rather than a more generally worded subject announcing a discussion of public records policies pertaining to emails, is meant to send a message to folks that they will be called out by name if they have an opposing viewpoint to the owner of OP.

Public records are essential when determining facts about proposals before the town.  There is much information generated by the town and other government bodies when conducting business.  Since only a fraction of public documents are actually posted online, the only way to see that public information is to request it.

Many people in our community, whether the topic be asking for continued school funding or asking for public process to site a shelter, are afraid to talk in front of an elected body or to write a letter.  They fear that they will be attacked by name.  Many are afraid to ask for public records for fear that elected officials who learn of these request may retaliate in future decisions which affect them. 

This post confirms those fears for many.

"Try to criticize ideas instead of people." - OP Community Guidelines

this isn't the first complaint of this on this blog, but you have to remember that it is the owner of the blog's right to handle rules however she desires.  We choose to post here and sometimes the hassle of stuff like that is worth it, sometimes not.

You're right about that. If you're part of the clique, you can do and say what you want. If you're not, you're subject to the rules. I learned that first hand. 



but you have to remember that it is the owner of the blog's right to handle rules however she desires.  We choose to post here and sometimes the hassle of stuff like that is worth it, sometimes not.

So you are suggesting that whoever is in power does not have to follow their own rules?  That is an interesting concept.

I believe those who make the rules should set a good example by following them.  In this case, there is not even an argument of self defense to justify the posting.

Two guidelines were clearly broken in the initial post:

  • "Try to criticize ideas instead of people."
  • "Please do not demand responses (from elected officials, local media, the editors, or others) to your comments. No-one has any official obligation to read or respond to what is written."

Lastly, I am not a public official nor am I running for office (nor have I ever ran for office).  I would not have reasonably anticipated this post because I was not involved with a press release which triggered it.  Posting this on a Thursday night when I could have been out of town (like I was last weekend) without a heads up or a chance to comment is just plain wrong.

I encourage people to read those two guidelines and to re-read Ruby's initial post. 

Would you be calling Mark out the same way  ?  We need transparency in our government . Any email should be available to us as citizens as they are working for us and on our behalf . If there is nothing there, then there is nothing to hide .

I don't think the complaint is about the town emails.  That clearly falls in the category you're talking about.  The concern is the request for the list of folks who are subscribed to UNC emails (which includes me, although my email is protected by pretty good spam control so I don't mind giving it out).  Though I'm not sure how Ruby knows that request is from Mark (or what value it is to him either).

The answers are quite simple as stated above.  One might jump to the conclusion that since you did not like the well reasoned, researched, and thought out arguments of the opponents to the proposed shelter relocation site, you created a bogus personal attack rather than dealing with the issues.  You yourself stated “How can we as a community move forward with some kind of dialog that addresses the needs of the poor and homeless, of this neighborhood, of other neighborhoods, and of our local governments?”  Surely your post does not further that goal.  Perhaps this should have been expected.  Roscoe Reeve posted to the opponents of the proposed shelter relocation site “I hope you understand that derision is a standard price for combat on this blog”

Oh, I was thinking of synonyms for what this unfounded personal attack is.

gross, foul, icky and grody to the max.

Gag me with a spoon!

We're talking Lord, God, King bu-fu!

Don't forget to call me a censor while you're at it (everyone else does). It's obvious by the way I only let people post nice things about me on my web site.

So to clarify, I think the final few posts here were having fun in trying to remember the lyrics to the 80s song Valley Girl rather than making a serious point about the post.  It is Friday, after all, and I am a little giddy!  I do believe the original attack against Mark was unfounded and wrong, but Valley Girl did take over the point at my "gag me with a spoon" post!   

Yeah we were just joking around, no hard feelings here.Zappa FTW

Santos--this title is the funniest point of my entire day!  Thanks for the huge laughs, and way to pull that one out! 

I said that your post was.  I also have to wonder why it is OK for you to make a public records request of Mark's email request, but not OK for him to make a request for Town e-mail regarding relocating the homeless shelter.  Once again I find myself feeling like a double standard is being applied.


No biggie. I just think it's funny that Tina called my post "Outrageous, Abominable, Egregious, Detestable, Offensive, Vile" on the same site where people often accuse me me of censoring things I don't agree with. It doesn't bother me that much because I obviously don't share her/your opinion about it.I think my comment above responds to your question. Mark is certainly entitled to request this public information, just like I'm entitled to ask public questions about his request.

Part of the concern here is the email list, not the content of specific emails.  I would imagine someone could request a public body (UNC) distribution list and then turn around and sell it to the spammers.  The names of those requesting a copy of the list is also public information.  Right or wrong, afterwards any spam arriving at a list members mailbox might be blamed on the person who requested the distribution list.   

Care to comment on the conversation you started?

Ruby, you started a very caustic and accusatory message thread.  Don't you think it is appropriate given all the discussion that you provide a few comments?


You mean like the comments I wrote at 2:14, 2:46, and 3:07? Not sure about some of you, but I have a full time job, a child to take care of, and tonight I had a wonderful OP happy hour to attend.Some folks tend to argue their point over and over, but I try to make my case and let folks take it or leave it if I don't have any new information or perspectives to add.I can see that some people don't like me talking about this, but I think it's fair to have a public discussion of Mark's public records requests.

What the FTC has to say about email SPAM.

If you have a big email list be careful how you use it.

Have you ever tried googling your emal address?

Other services can provide a lot of personal information just from a email address. ex.

Which is why I noted above that Mark would comply with the CAN-SPAM law!


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