Anonymous blog makes quiet exit

A political Web log (blog) allegedly written by a Kitsap County employee about local government issues suddenly disappeared Thursday afternoon.

Known as 614 Division Street, the 4-month old site promised at the outset to be provocative and make use of insider knowledge. With that in mind, the moderator repeatedly refused to divulge his or her identity, saying, “If I reveal who I am I will lose my access and lose my job.”

The sudden disappearance of the blog coincided with the filing of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Kitsap News Group that was sought to determine the blogger’s identity.

The blog was inactive during long periods in May and June due to a “family emergency.” The request sought to determine which employees took an extended leave during those months.

If the blogger had inside sources, he or she would have heard of the request and then shut down the blog. Since the anonymous writer cannot be reached for comment, it’s impossible to determine whether the shutdown is temporary or permanent, or why it occurred.

Blogs provide an interactive news forum, with the moderator making statements and encouraging contributions — or “posts” from readers. True to its promise, 614 Division Street featured contributions from all sides of the political spectrum.

Since the blog began, it has invited speculation about its authorship. Many readers were certain it was written by Kitsap Business Journal editor and Port Orchard Mayoral Candidate Lary Coppola, due to a similarity in style and content.

However, the blog moderator stated several times that any resemblance between the two was coincidental. And Coppola categorically denied he had anything to do with the blog or knew who the author might be.

“I have no reason to hide my identity,” he said. “I’ve written far more critical things on my own blog than anything that was on 614 Division Street.”

“I don’t know whether 614 was Lary or not,” said Kitsap Association of Realtors' Executive Mike Eliason. “But whoever it was, they tried to make it look like it was him.”

Added Kingston resident Mick Sheldon, one of the most loquacious 614 Division Street contributors, “I would be really disappointed if it was Lary, because it would mean he was flat-out lying.”

The 614 Division Street moderator rebuffed several attempts by the Kitsap News Group for direct comment, especially after former North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen submitted a post answering the charge of a public meeting act violation.

Endresen also took issue with the blogger’s contention that he or she would be fired for participating in a blog.

“People who work for the county still have the right to freedom of speech,” she said. “And all of the county employees are protected.”

There is a local precedent, although from before the time when blogging became a popular political sport. In December 2004, CENCOM Assistant Director Dave Magnanet was forced to resign after he posted unfavorable opinions about his employees during labor negotiations.

Even as the blog could reappear at any time, by late Thursday participants already discussed it in the past tense.

Sheldon said the blog allowed him to trade ideas with those who don’t share his conservative political leanings.

“It provided a different avenue to speak out,” he said. “I will miss it. I love exchanging ideas.”

Sheldon, who does not post anonymously, said blog contributors who can hide behind aliases can be more ill-tempered.

“When people post anonymously,” he said, “it brings out the nastiness.”

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