Dancers and managers at a Parkland strip club sued Pierce County on Tuesday to block the release of their business licenses — which include their names, dates of birth, photos and other identifying information — under a public records request.
The complaint was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on behalf of about 70 dancers and managers at Dream Girls at Fox’s in Parkland.
David Van Vleet, who lists his mailing address as a post office box in Auburn, filed the public records request with the county Auditor’s Office.
In court documents, an attorney for the dancers and managers acknowledges the licenses can be released under the state’s Public Records Act. But Seattle attorney Gilbert Levy argued disclosing the information would threaten the strip club workers’ safety and violate their rights to privacy and free speech.
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Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson said that unless a court order is issued by Friday, her office will release the licenses to Van Vleet on Monday. Absent a court order, Anderson said, the Auditor’s Office is required to release the licenses under the Public Records Act.
The licenses include stage and legal names, height, weight, eye and hair color, date of birth, signature and a color photo.
Anderson said her office notified 125 license holders for Fox’s — dancers, managers and owners/operators — of the records request last month and that the licenses would be released unless blocked by a court order.
“Given the nature of the work performed by these people, I opted to give them a heads-up,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the request is the first her office has received from Van Vleet. Anderson and Van Vleet are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Van Vleet could not be reached for comment.
A female manager and and dancer — identified as plaintiffs Jane Roe 1 and 2 in the complaint — stated concerns about their safety if their licenses are released. Dream Girls at Fox’s is also a plaintiff.
The manager said she has a no-contact order in place protecting her from an abusive former partner. She said she fears Van Vleet could publish her information on the Internet, disclosing her whereabouts to her former partner.
The dancer said she has a distinctive name. She said her information could be used on the Internet to find out her other job, that she has a young daughter, who her friends and family are, and her address and phone number.
“I feel I could be harassed by Mr. Van Vleet or other people with nefarious intentions, and that I could suffer the loss of my other job and relationships because of the disclosure,” the dancer said.
Dancers also voiced fears for their safety last year over a request for their license applications, which also are public records.
In February 2013, a Pierce County Superior Court judge permanently blocked a Pierce County Jail inmate from the receiving the names, addresses, phone numbers and other personal information of more than 200 dancers at Dream Girls at Fox’s.
Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper ruled the dancers had “a very reasonable fear” that releasing their county license applications could put them at risk of abuse by Robert Hill, a Tacoma man with three felony convictions who was then in jail.
Culpepper said the public has “legitimate interest” in knowing who’s working at strip clubs and dancers’ backgrounds. But he cited invasion of privacy as an exemption for not releasing the 215 applications to Hill.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.