Board postponing action on recordings

Published 8:32 pm Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Lincoln County School Board is waiting to decide what action should be taken concerning the recorded conversations posted on a Facebook page that were allegedly taped in Loyd Star Attendance Center principal Robin Case’s office.

The audio recordings are posted on a Facebook page called “Restore Humanity, Ethics and Peace at Loyd Star,” which was created Feb. 17 by Melissa Posey. The recordings are allegedly private conversations between Case and various employees and are in reference to school business and specific students.

Lincoln County School Board President Kay Coon said the board “is waiting to seek the advice  of our attorney on everything we need to do.”

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Board attorney Jim Keith of Adams and Reece in Ridgeland is scheduled to be at the March 6 board meeting.

Posey said in a post that the audio was “obtained legally and without prejudice.”

She brought the recordings to the attention of the Lincoln County School Board at a public meeting Feb. 21, though she was not on the agenda.

About 20 parents attended the meeting and stalled the official business of the board for more than an hour.

Posey accused board members of corruption and called for Case’s termination.

She is policing the Facebook page and asking those who disagree with her cause to refrain from voicing an option on her page. “This page is for Parents, Teachers and people that want to protect children,” she posted Saturday. “IT is NOT a place for anyone but those people to take a stand about the reality of Robin Case’s reign of terror and all that goes with that.”

“I’m asking the members, if another pompous redneck or ambulance chaser says one word in defense of this corruption, delete them out of the group or call me. They can vent somewhere else.

“Trying to pressure me to turn over MY evidence when they have a truck load themselves? NO! It’s a trick! And I’m not a rabbit! The powers want us to make a mistake. You think about it!”

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said a complaint was filed about the recordings by the school district and his office is working with the Attorney General’s office to determine if the recordings are a criminal or civil matter and if criminal, should it be a state or federal investigation.

Attempts to reach Hood’s office were unsuccessful. Jackson attorney Leonard Van Slyke, who provides legal advice to journalists through the Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information, said in Mississippi, intercepted phone calls are legal if at least one person in the conversation knows it’s being recorded. In this case, it’s not a phone conversation but a private conversation between two or more people and none of them were allegedly aware of the recording device hidden in the office.

Van Slyke’s concern is whether there is an invasion of privacy with someone “surreptitiously recording the information.”

He pointed to Bartnicki v. Vopper, a 2001 US Supreme Court case that relieved a media defendant of liability for broadcasting a taped conversation of a labor official talking to other union people about a teacher’s strike. At trial, the parties stipulated that the taped conversation had been illegally recorded in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Nevertheless, the Court held the broadcast was not unlawful.

In its decision, Van Slyke said, the Court held the radio station not liable because the radio station itself did nothing illegal to obtain the tape. The case stands for the rule that media defendants are not liable even if a third party violated the law.

However, Posey is not a media defendant.

“If she’s the one who placed it in there, she’s not a third party who received it,” Van Slyke said. “The person who placed it in there is certainly arguably (guilty of) an invasion of privacy. If she recorded it and she’s putting it on Facebook, I can see it’s a potential liability.”

The second question that must be considered is this: Is it a “matter of public concern,” he said. Either way, Van Slyke said recording private conversations can be a slippery slope.

“You need to be cautious if you’re the one doing it,” he said. “I wouldn’t advise someone to do it. I’d say that.”