Facebook Roundup: Should an elected official expect cell phone privacy on a train?

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Last week, Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez had a curious run-in with one of California’s most respected political reporters, Bob Salladay, while riding the train in Sacramento.

As Salladay – a former LA Times Sacramento press corps veteran and current senior editor at California Watch (a Voice of OC media partner) – sat on the train, he could overhear Martinez talking about her election for the 69th State Assembly and talking about independent expenditures in her race with the Pala tribe of Indians.

When the disclosures – first picked up first by the Liberal OC – exploded over the Internet in Orange County, Martinez denied Salladay’s recollection saying it was “creepy” to have her conversation blasted around hyperspace.

Pala officials have since run away from Martinez and say the chances of any “IEs” are gone.

But does she have a point? Should her conversations on a cell phone while riding a public train be considered off-limits?

No way!…is the opinion of an overwhelming number of Voice of OC Community Editorial Board members and readers that reacted to the issue on Voice of OC’s Facebook page Friday.

“Uh, no. The councilwoman needs to learn to use her inside voice when chatting in an enclosed public space on her cell phone,” said Voice of OC Community Editorial Board member and Orange County Republican political consultant Matt Cunningham.

“Seriously, of course not. And Martinez’s public response doesn’t hold water. There’s nothing wrong with her knowing the Pala tribe is planning to support her with IEs, or even with the Palas telling her they’re going to do IEs for her. But “Working with [the Pala tribe]” — her words — is synonymous with “coordinating with.” Bob Salladay is a veteran political reporter, a good reporter, and he did his job.”

Voice of OC reader Lisa King agreed saying, “Is she new to politics? When you are in public office you are watched more closely and she should know that discussing things in PUBLIC.”

Voice of OC Community Editorial Board member Lucy Dunn of the Orange County Business Council noted that:

“No. By definition, privacy is the ability of an individual to seclude herself or information about herself and thereby reveal herself selectively. The councilwoman did not choose to seclude herself or her info when she chose to take a call in a public place.”

Voice of OC reader Trish Kelly agreed, noting: “When you are talking on the phone in public, there is no privacy regardless of who you are.”

Voice of OC Community Editorial Board member Rick Stein, of Arts OC, also raises an interesting point about the ethics of sharing overheard conversations saying “its not a black or white matter.”

“Legally, of course not. But ethics may, in some cases, demand a higher standard. The New York Times “Ethicist” column recently discussed a case of an overheard conversation & the ethical pros & cons of sharing that information–not a “black & white” matter.”

To see the full array of responses, visit our Facebook page.

 

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