I'm Gonna Tell Mom!
February 16, 2007 11:16 PM   Subscribe

Can one get "anonymous" complaint information from a local government bureau? How?

I've got a difficult neighbor. He's taken a particular interest in making my life unpleasant, and has been reporting me to city agencies (building permits, tax assessor, etc.) I have reason to believe he's done the same for other people in the neighborhood, and in other places he's lived. I would like to collect the anonymous reports he's filed, because at least some of them are false. What's the best way to get this information? (I'm in Portland, Oregon.)
posted by spacewrench to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm pretty sure there's no way to get much info on anonymous reports, for obvious reasons. They may be able to tell you, yes or no, if something's been filed that names you.

There still may be a value in letting the agencies know that you think this is going on. It may get them talking to each other - i.e. if the fire dept, police, animal control, etc. all get a report on you, they all investigate separately. If they know someone's ratting you out for all kinds of stuff, they'll see a pattern and realize he's the wacko. Hopefully.

Just be careful to not make it look like you've done something, and want to know if the authorities know you did it!
posted by altcountryman at 7:54 AM on February 17, 2007

The best way to get the information is simply to contact whichever agency(-ies) you think he has been calling, and ask them. Chances are that Portland has public records laws just like anywhere else, and they will gladly give you the information if there is any to give. They would also be able to tell you if there is a system in place that serves as a clearing house for all public information so you don't have to call dozens of different offices. (There are specific information systems that some local governments use that can find all things related to one address, for example). If the reports are anonymous and they don't have such a system, it might be a little trickier to track down. It would help to know the time frame in which he would have made the complaint so they can narrow down searches of their own records that way.

Keep in mind, people in government are just like you and me, they can usually tell a crank when they hear one. Even if they are professionally obligated to check out each and every call they might receive, the cranky ones generally get less weight. Now, if he is more clever than that, and never calling the same agency twice, they probably don't know he's a nutter. But if he's making the same complaints over and over again about the same general area, trust me, even if he never gives a name, the people on the other end of the phone know exactly who he is, and roll their eyes when they hear his voice..
posted by brain cloud at 9:27 AM on February 17, 2007

Just a question, though -- assuming you're able to get some of the reports & complaints you're looking for, how would you go about proving that your neighbor is the one who filed them, if they are anonymous?
posted by brain cloud at 11:31 AM on February 17, 2007

Response by poster: I should clarify: the "Report a Violation" forms I've seen have a place for the reporter's name and address. However, the people who show up at my door don't have this information, and when queried, say that the information is kept in confidence.
Essentially, anybody with spare time on their hands can just go down and fill in "Violation Reports" on anybody he cares to harrass. And there's (apparently) nothing you can do about it.
posted by spacewrench at 1:37 PM on February 17, 2007

Best answer: I would go the Freedom of Information Act request route.

Oregon state law on:

Whose records are and are not subject to the act?

What physical form of records are covered?

Exemptions from FOIA (scroll down about 1/2 way - this may apply to your request)

(4) Information submitted to a public body in confidence where such information is not required by law to be submitted. ORS 192.502(4).

This exemption employs a five-part test: first, the information was submitted on the condition it would be kept confidential; second, the information was not required by law to be submitted; third, the information should reasonably be considered confidential; fourth, the public body must have committed itself, in good faith, to keep the information confidential; and finally, the public interest would suffer if the information were disclosed.

City of Portland Code Violation Complaint Procedure

posted by mlis at 8:36 PM on February 17, 2007

While this won't help you keep tabs on what complaints your neighbor is calling in (and we have one of those on my block as well) you can call the Portland Neighborhood Mediation Center and they can help you along the road to resolving your problems with this neighbor. Their number is
(503) 595-4890.
posted by rosebengal at 1:20 PM on February 19, 2007

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