|NMU||SOUTH CAROLINA||Freedom of Information|
Postal inspector won’t release details of mail dumping investigation
- Citing privacy of postal workers, the U.S. Postal Office says it does not have to provide a newspaper with information from its investigation into the Bluffton post office.
March 21, 2003 — After thousands of pieces of mail were dumped into a trash bin behind the Bluffton, S.C. post office in December 2002, City Sun editor Wayne Wehunt and publisher Judy Wehunt wanted more information.
But it is unlikely that the Wehunts or the residents of Bluffton will know what the U.S. Postal Inspection Service found, because the agency refuses to release its report on the incident.
The Wehunts originally reported the dumping to the postal inspector after they were told that copies of their monthly newspaper were among the discarded deliveries.
Dumping mail, unless it is undeliverable mail that legally may be destroyed, is a federal crime.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service filed a report with the U.S. Attorney’s Office seeking federal prosecution of postal workers involved in the mail dumping. The Postal Service announced Jan. 10 that Postmaster Jonathan Murray had been placed on administrative leave and two contract postal workers had been terminated.
Wayne Wehunt said he was denied the postal inspection report verbally because, he was told, it is “their policy to protect the privacy of all concerned.”
He later filed a formal Freedom of Information Act request, but his letter, which he sent March 11 through the Bluffton post office, never made it to the Postal Service. A Postal Service spokesman finally confirmed receipt of a faxed request Thursday.
Wehunt says he’s “hopeful, but doubtful” that they will have more information about the incident.
“It’s our right to know what’s going on. It’s our mail. How can privacy override public interest in that case?” he said.
© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press