(The Center Square) — An Oregon lawmaker is facing questions about his ties to a website devoted to harassing public safety inspectors fining businesses over pandemic health violations.
In December, the website "Citizens Against Tyranny," started publishing the names of people who allegedly reported businesses to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for COVID-19 safety protocol.
The website went online within days of Oregon Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg, calling on business owners to obtain the names of OSHA complaint filers during a sermon at Garden Valley Church in Roseburg on December 13, The News Review reported.
“There’s going to be stuff in it that might make you pause for a second, like when we discover that someone has betrayed their community, betrayed their own freedom and turned in their neighbor for nothing but going to work and earning a living the most basic of rights, we’re going to expose them,” Heard said, according to The News Review. “We’re not going to return evil for evil though. But their faces and their names and what they did must be known.”
Two women, who requested to remain anonymous in interviews with The News Review, say their names were among those posted to the site for reporting OSHA pandemic complaints.
Only one of them said they had filed a complaint to OSHA regarding state health rule violations. The two women's names were further listed under a page on the website entitled "Filthy Traitors," according to screenshots from December 20.
The website's author references "constituents" in detailed instructions on how to file public records requests related to pandemic OSHA complaints.
Speaking to The News Review, Heard said the website was formed by 20 to 30 businesses in the state and denied having control over it. The two women's names were taken down after Heard's interview with The News Review.
Posting private information about a person on the internet, a practice also known as “doxxing,” is not illegal in Oregon. State lawmakers have proposed banning the practice in recent years.
Citizens Against Tyranny has drawn condemnation from local leaders, including Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin.
“I don’t feel that sharing the names of individuals who think or may believe that they are reporting appropriate violations of law or violations of the governor’s orders, I don’t believe it’s appropriate to shame them or publish their names for doing what they believe may be the right thing,” Hanlin told The News Review. “Certainly we don’t publish the names of individuals who report drunk drivers or who report a domestic disturbance going on or those sorts of things.”
Heard removed his face mask on the floor of the Oregon Senate in protest of the legislature's' health rules the day a mob of Trump protesters stormed the state capitol building on December 21.
Since March, OSHA has issued 70 citations to businesses found in violation of pandemic health rules based on 18,800 complaints and 227 onsite inspections, according to OSHA Public Information Officer Aaron Corvin.
Penalties for non-willful violations range from $100 to $2,000, while penalties for willful violations can cost businesses between $8,900 to $17,500, Corvin said.
Those restrictions include face mask usage, social distancing, limited capacity, and no indoor dining under county risk tiers established by Gov. Kate Brown in 2020.
Protests against Oregon's health rules in past months have become all the more political in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, which saw President-elect Joe Biden victorious.
In November, a pro-Trump group's demonstration outside of an Oregon OSHA inspector's Silverton home drew the likes of far-right Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson and 2020 GOP candidate for Oregon Attorney General Michael Cross.
Casey's Restaurant in Klamath Falls is one of at least a dozen businesses around Oregon to resist the governor's ban at the cost of $8,900 since November 29.
Mick Patzke, who runs the restaurant with his wife, Patty, and his mother, Annie, told the Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank, that state health rules are out of touch.
“We still have to pay taxes while the bureaucrats, they never miss a paycheck and they don’t have to worry about their jobs,” Patzke said.
Klamath County is one of 23 counties in Oregon to be listed as at "Extreme Risk" for COVID-19 transmission with a 7% positivity test rate compared to the state average of 6%.
On January 7, there were 128 active COVID-19 workplace outbreaks reported in the state, according to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).
On Friday, Oregon lawmakers released $46 million to support the Oregon Worker Relief and Quarantined Worker Funds as well as the state's newly created Small Enterprise Fund for small business assistance.
However, an October survey from the Portland Business Alliance found 170 businesses have closed their doors in downtown Portland alone.
As of Sunday, Oregon has seen 124,476 reported cases of COVID-19 and 1,607 deaths from the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to the OHA.