Sheriff hit with new request: Edmonds man seeks pet licensing, law enforcement private information

PORT ANGELES — An Edmonds man with a history of publishing the private information of law enforcement officers has asked the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office to hand over pet licensing information of more than 2,000 pet owners and information about county law enforcement.

William Sheehan made the request Monday to “make available upon inspection any and all documents that will show all of the licensed pets in Clallam County, including license numbers, owner information and all other pertinent information,” according to an email Sheehan sent to the Sheriff’s Office Monday.

It’s nearly identical to a request Port Angeles resident Adam Chamberlin rescinded last week after public response when the Sheriff’s Office made his request public. Chamberlin said Thursday he does not know Sheehan.

Part of the reason for the second request, according to a Facebook post by Sheehan, is that Sheriff Bill Benedict “shamed the original requester.”

If the Sheriff’s Office “shames” him, Sheehan wrote “I will retaliate by publishing your home address and your SSN…”

Sheehan has a history of posting lists of police officers’ addresses, home phone numbers and Social Security numbers, the New York Times wrote in 2003. He referred the Sheriff’s Office to the New York Times article in an email.

In his email sent Monday, Sheehan also requested “any and all records that will show the names of all your sheriffs, their salaries or rates of pay, overtime records, phone number, cell phone numbers, whether published or not, their entire files, disciplinary records by officer, and any documents or records you have on all your officers, including their photographs.”

When reached for comment Thursday, Sheehan said he had no interest in talking to news media.

“You’re not going to be helping me very much,” Sheehan said. “No comment.”

Benedict said Thursday he plans to handle this request the same way he handled Chamberlin’s. Chamberlin said he planned to use the information to start a free pet-retrieval service.

Benedict plans to issue a press release Monday letting the public know of Sheehan’s request for pet license information and the steps that can be taken to block it, which include petitioning Clallam County Superior Court.

Benedict already had suspended county pet licensing after Chamberlin’s request.

Benedict said he expects Sheehan to publish his address and Social Security number in retaliation for the press release planned for Monday.

“He has the legal right to do it,” Benedict said.

In an email Sheehan told Benedict “[i]f your department or your agents make any reference about me, including my name on Facebook or so much as say my name, I’ll sue.”

“He’s not the first person to threaten to sue me,” Benedict said. “[He] indicated he’d sue me if I put his name out there, but I’m going to.”

Benedict said the information Sheehan is seeking includes personal information such as the addresses and phone numbers of all 2,222 dog and cat owners and the breeds of their pets that he would be forced, under state law, to release.

Benedict said he plans to notify pet owners by mail that records will be released unless they successfully petition Clallam County Superior Court. He expected to spend about $1,500 on the letters.

“I suspect some people would go to Superior Court to have that info blocked,” he said. “I don’t see anything in the public interest that [public records request] would serve.

“What value would it be to someone in Edmonds [to know] who has pets that are registered to [Clallam] County?”

State law says that a records release can be barred if a Superior Court finds the release of information is not in the public interest and would cause substantial and irreparable damage.

Benedict said Sheehan’s request is an example of frivolous requests that waste taxpayer money and waste time.

“Was that the intent of the [Public Records Act] that people who have a grudge with government can halt government?” he asked.

Benedict said he hopes he will not have to fulfill the request.

“My hope is there is some judicial request,” he said. “If the Superior Court doesn’t put a stop on it then I will be forced to release the documents.”

In 2003 a federal district-court judge struck down a state law the was designed to stop Sheehan from posting officers’ personal information online, according to the Seattle Times.

Sheehan launched a website in 2001 — which is now shut down — and offered personal information about officers, which sometimes included Social Security numbers.

Sheehan told the Seattle Times the site’s intent was to hold police accountable for their actions.

Benedict said the state Legislature needs to take a look at the state Public Records Acts and close loopholes that make frivolous requests legal.

Benedict said he has discussed the issue with 24th District state Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, as part of a possible fix of state public records laws.

The licensing program helps match lost pets with the animals’ owners.

Licensing is $10 a year for neutered-spayed dogs and cats and $55 a year for non-neutered-spayed pets.

Failing to license a pet is a civil infraction with a $250 fine.

Benedict said last week license proceeds generate about $5,000 to $10,000 a year and go to the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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