I have just read Roger Williams' story on the Social Security Administration ("Social Insecurity," August 17). As a former SSA employee, I have seen firsthand similar disregard for employees' health. On one occasion both myself and the claims representative sitting next to me tested positive for tuberculosis. We were the only two in an office of six. This occurred just weeks after I interviewed a claimant who had HIV and TB. As a result I had to undergo six months of medication to prevent me from actually coming down with the sometimes untreatable and deadly disease.
After we spoke with management about our concerns, an "expert" came to our office and gave a presentation on TB, stating we could not contract it from casual contact with the aforementioned claimant. Our interviews, under normal circumstances, could last up to an hour, with the person seated three feet in front of us. To compound this, my office was in Belle Glade, where the literacy rate has to be close to the lowest in the country. And the complicated medical forms involved could take a long time to fill out (which we were required to do if the claimant couldn't).
Referring back to your story, which described the death of employee Ty Keon and official stonewalling about the cause: Death records are public and are received from the office of vital statistics where the person died. Death records from Social Security are public, since death nullifies any privacy issue. The SSA records would not give a cause of death but would give the information necessary to obtain the correct death certificate.
I would be very interested and am sure most of your other readers of your story would like to know what disease the SSA is keeping secret.
A former photo fanatic speaks: Regarding Roger Williams' story about New Times photographer Josh Prezant ("Free the Press," August 17), it seems to me his constitutional right to protection against illegal search and seizure was violated. Did the building he was taking pictures of claim its right to privacy had been violated? I am a retired UPI photo editor and a former photojournalism instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Years ago we had a similar situation. One of our photographers was shooting the exterior of a bank from across the street when the guards came out to tell him to stop. They even called the police to back them up. We wound up with a couple of frames taken before everybody got themselves out of joint. Later we used one of the pictures to go with whatever story was printed. At the time we had 12 photographers on staff and any number of stringers and freelancers available. The next day everybody we could hire or assign was across the street pointing their cameras at the building. We drove the security staff and the cops nuts.
It seems to me that you are in a unique position to teach the Fort Lauderdale police a First Amendment lesson. For the next half-dozen or so issues, publish the picture Officer Anthony Castro decided he didn't want your readers to see. Your headline could be: "The Fort Lauderdale Police Don't Want You to See This Photo!" Of course I'm not trying to tell you how to run your paper. That's up to you. Just thought a little history would be helpful.
via the Internet
Impossible, this is South Florida:
I am absolutely enraged at the tactics of the Fort Lauderdale police after reading "Free the Press." Can you imagine how this thug who is masquerading as a police officer treats civilians if he treats the press in the manner described in your article?
I hope that you use all the resources at your disposal to file a civilian complaint and a civil lawsuit against Officer Castro for his boorish and unwarranted behavior. We who pay his salary have no obligation to be treated in such a manner.
Why does the Fort Lauderdale Police Department condone behavior such as this and allow such lunatics to carry weapons? Please keep us apprised of this case.
Philip J. DelGrosso
Mr. Moore, we salute you:
I took offense at Harvey Slavin's letter in your August 24 issue. I find Jen Karetnick's food reviews the best in South Florida; they are the main reason I read your publication. Please thank her and keep up the good work.