School board majority files legal complaint
The four-person conservative majority on the Newberg school board is wading into a legal fight with four residents of the Chehalem Valley, seeking compensation for online incidents they claim involved the illegal sharing of private information.
Dave Brown, Brian Shannon, Trevor DeHart and Renee Powell filed a joint complaint in Yamhill County Circuit Court on Oct. 18, aimed at Yamhill County residents Debbie Tofte, Katherine Barnett, AJ Schwanz and Tamara Brookfield. The school board members are represented by Daniel Thenell of the Portland-based Thenell Law Group.
The four members are seeking a total of $40,000 in financial relief and allege violations of Oregon House Bill 3047, which was passed in June and applies to the disclosing of private information in a practice commonly referred to as "doxxing."
All the disclosures alleged to have violated the law were posted to Facebook, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by this newspaper.
Thenell cited various Facebook posts in the complaint: Schwanz shared that Brown is employed by the Canby School District; Barnett shared information about Powell's art being removed from the tasting room at The Potter's Vineyard in Newberg; Tofte shared information about DeHart's job at Lam Research; and Brookfield posted contact information for Shannon's employer, Selectron Technologies.
With the unique exception of the location of Powell's art, all of the information shared by the defendants is publicly available on the social media pages or campaign websites of the board members or is easily searchable through public records. Whether the sharing of such information falls under the relatively new doxxing law remains to be seen, although the language of HB 3047 is broad.
"'Personal information' means … The plaintiff's home address, personal email address, personal phone number or social security number; Contact information for the plaintiff's employer; Contact information for a family member of the plaintiff; Photographs of the plaintiff's children; or Identification of the school that the plaintiff's children attend," the bill's final language reads.
Thenell wrote that the four school board members have all experienced anxiety and distress in recent months, often brought on by the disclosure of the alleged private information.
"Plaintiff Powell has been subjected to severe emotional distress such that Powell has experienced anxiety, fear and apprehension," the complaint reads. "Powell does not go out to eat in Newberg since the improper disclosure of private information has occurred, which she used to do before the disclosure. … Powell has also experienced anxiety in the form of losing weight and sleep.
"DeHart avoids local public places as much as he can and has experienced restless nights due to anxiety. DeHart now locks his doors at night and sleeps with personal protection nearby. DeHart has also had to ask his neighbors to keep an eye on any abnormal vehicles or activity in the neighborhood.
"Shannon avoids local places and eating out in Newberg. He also now carries personal protection equipment. Shannon has also installed a video camera outside of his house and has trouble sleeping because of the improper disclosure of private information by the Defendants.
"Brown has trouble sleeping and now wakes up to any noise in his house. Brown does not keep his garage door open anymore of fear of someone entering his garage because of the improper disclosure of private information by the defendants."
In their capacity as school board members, Brown, Shannon, DeHart and Powell voted in favor of a ban on all perceived political symbols in Newberg schools, initially attempting to ban specifically Black Lives Matter and Pride symbols. The community has responded largely in opposition to these policies, with the board's controversial ban often driving the local conversation online and within the confines of public comment sessions.
Further information on the case as it develops can be found using the state's judicial system search tool: webportal.courts.oregon.gov/portal.
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