Rantz: Mayor reports business to Gov. Inslee’s coronavirus ‘snitch list’

May 11, 2020, 8:45 PM | Updated: May 12, 2020, 8:57 am
Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, snitch list...
Mayor Jennifer Gregerson reported a business to the so-called "snitch list" for violating Governor Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order.. (City of Mukilteo)
(City of Mukilteo)

Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson reported a local business to Washington’s so-called “snitch list” for perceived violations of the coronavirus stay-at-home order.

The state of Washington created a website to report businesses believed to be in violation of the stay-at-home order. Violations run the gamut from egregious lack of social distancing to simply operating when not deemed an “essential business.” Some reports aren’t violations at all.

Activists have criticized Governor Jay Inslee’s reporting mechanism. They say it promotes incivility by having neighbors snitch on each other, pitting Washingtonians against one another. They’ve labeled the complaint report the “snitch list.”

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Mayor uses the ‘snitch list’

In the complaint, Mayor Gregerson reports the nearby business for “conducting animal grooming in addition to pet sitting services.” The service is not an essential business under Inslee’s stay-at-home order. It was supposed to be closed.

At the time of reporting the business, Gregerson was acting in her capacity of Mayor of Mukilteo. She listed her official work email account on the form. She confirmed to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that she reported the business after a constituent complained to her.

“The current direction from the state was that the process to educate or enforce the stay home order was to submit complaints through the web form,” Gregerson told me via email. “I completed the form upon request from a resident.”

She acknowledges she “did not pursue reaching out to the business directly” prior to her report.

But she says after the complaint was made, “we have made personal contact with local businesses as well as visitors to parks to educate on the stay home orders, physical distancing, and the importance of compliance.”

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Is this appropriate?

Is it appropriate for a mayor to report a business? She could have simply picked up the phone and contacted the business directly to remind them of the order. She chose to report it instead.

For Gregerson, she says it’s a matter of fairness. She emailed:

The individual that reached out to me, and others that I receive daily, are concerned with safety. They are looking for ways to enforce or educate others who might not appreciate their concern with their own health or the health of family members. Reading their notes, my sense is that it feels scary to not have control of your health, to hear that those that are breaking stay home orders and guidelines are putting you in danger. I think having empathy for that feeling is important.

There also is concern about a sense of fairness- when businesses break the stay home orders while others remain closed, it feels unfair to some who have contacted me.

The mayor acknowledges some of the businesses she contacted have not been receptive. Some have been.

The business at the center of this complaint did not respond to requests for comment. I’m choosing not to name the business because my assumption is the owner was trying to safely and responsibly work so that she doesn’t go out of business, forced to close through no fault of her own. We see plenty of businesses struggling and I assume she didn’t want to be one of them. I can’t fault her for that.

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The ‘snitch list’ controversy

Everything the form collects, from the complaint to the complainant (including phone and email), is subject to public disclosure requests. Meaning, the document is considered public. And though the state’s website clearly warns of this, the public nature of the report caught people off guard.

Activist Glen Morgan of We The Governed slammed the ‘snitch list’ and posted the first installment of complaints — an astonishing 146 pages worth.

“I’ve expressed concern in years past for turning neighbor against neighbor by allowing anonymous complaints to be weaponized as the basis for tortuous harassment by code enforcement officers, central planning departments, and the various environmental groups who must justify their existence by hurting and harassing as many people as possible,” Morgan wrote on his blog.

This so-called “snitch list” went too far for Morgan because “Governor Inslee’s proclamations have been sudden, random, and a substantial portion of the population will not accept his goal of destroying their business, livelihood, or future.”

Some harassment

Inslee’s “snitch list” has created some unintended consequences for the people reporting businesses. Local media reports instances of harassment and doxxing of the people turning in businesses.

Speaking anonymously to KING 5, one man said he received an email from a woman named Julie: “You are all cowards. You are despicable…Every one of you are pieces of [expletive]…If you don’t like the fact that they opened their business, stay the [expletive] home. Forever…”

KING 5 notes the Washington Three Percenters posted the “snitch list” on Facebook. But the group’s president said they’re not responsible for directing any harassment or threats towards anyone. They posted the file because they “believe in the Constitution and the fundamental right to face your accuser.”

“We don’t support any kind of behavior like that, and Washington Three Percent played zero role in any of that,” group president Matt Marshall said. “There’s no way a member of our organization did it, and if a member of our organization had anything to do with it, they would be immediately dismissed and turned over to the FBI.”

The AP reported some people were sent death threats. This behavior is, of course, odious.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter and Instagram or like me on Facebook

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Rantz: Mayor reports business to Gov. Inslee’s coronavirus ‘snitch list’