County sheriff elections are bad for the amount of animosity… but they make for good TossUps!
(Editor’s Note: I’ve had my differences with HalifaxTalk before, but I’ll defend anybody that is dealing with a potential free speech issue.)
HalifaxTalk: Jeff’s FOIA Stuff
Let’s go over some background information quickly. Jeff Oakes is the former sheriff of Halifax County who was defeated by Stanley Noblin in the 2007 election cycle. Oakes is still quite bitter over that and is Noblin’s biggest critic. We’re now in the 2011 election cycle and Oakes is trying to dig up any less-than-favorable information about the Noblin administration. Oakes claims he has used the Freedom Of Information Act to get lots of documents that will show Stanley Noblin should be defeated in his first re-election bid. Oakes has used the HalifaxTalk message board to lob attacks at Noblin and Noblin has chosen not to reply.
Let’s FastForward to the current TossUp! Oakes has came forward with two documents and Darrin Talbott (the owner of HalifaxTalk) decided to host them on his personal webspace that he gets from being a GCROnline customer. Talbott got an email from GCROnline asking him to remove the documents from his personal webspace, saying that they didn’t want to have any political content there. This has brought some howls of protest from supporters of Fred Clark (Noblin’s challenger) saying that this decision was politically motivated. I decided to check out this story and see what both
Talbott & GCROnline had to say about it.
In an email conversation with Glenn Ratliff (the owner of GCROnline), he said that it was just a request. After follow-up questions about the request, Ratliff said (via email), “As a private company, we don’t reveal too much about our customer
relationships. Darrin can provide you with all the information you need if he chooses to provide it.”
Talbott went ahead and removed the documents from and posted the documents on his own website that he pays for. In an email conversation with Talbott, he said that he complied with the request but “I told them that it disturbed me to have to move it.”
I called GCROnline today and spoke with Glenn Ratliff. he said that although there is nothing in the company’s Acceptable Use Policy barring political content, the members’ site is described as “Personal web pages are a useful medium to convey your hobbies and interests to a large audience, the world.” He also said that once this election cycle is over, his company may clarify what is wanted on the personal website area. I asked him what he would have done if Talbott had refused his request and he said that they would have moved on. Ratliff was clear in saying that there was no political motivation in the request and that is was a simple request to keep the members site politically-free.
So that happened. I feel that both Darrin Talbott & Glenn Ratliff are trustworthy and I’m inclined to believe what they say. Perhaps it was just a “Simple Request” and not an attempt to stifle political speech in a “Chilling Effect”. There are plenty of free webhosting services on the internet, so there are plenty of places to put whatever content you want out there. I can also see the point that Jeff Oakes and the Fred Clark supporters have in saying this decision was politically motivated.
What do you think?
(Editor’s Note: I attempted to make contact with Fred Clark today, but he did not return my call. On a side note, I have left multiple messages at different times for Fred Clark to return my calls with not much success. I’m disappointed in that.)