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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 5, 2009
Web wars a warm-up to supervisor’s race?
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND Democrat Kenneth Runion and Republican Mark Grimm have been caught up in an onslaught of websites and blogs dealing with Guilderland town politics, yet neither has committed to running for town supervisor in the coming fall elections.
A website created by Grimm’s fellow Republican and town board member, Warren Redlich, was brought to public attention when Supervisor Runion claimed that Redlich had stolen his identity by calling his site www.kenrunion.com. Redlich uses the page to critique Runion’s administration. “Mr. Runion’s nearly 10-year tenure as supervisor has been plagued by scandal and rising property taxes,” says Redlich’s site.
In response to the assertion that he stole Runion’s identity, Redlich, a lawyer, said that anyone can register any domain name they want; he wasn’t claiming to be Runion, and clearly stated on his page that the site was not subject to Runion’s approval. “I want people to know about the real Ken Runion,” said Redlich of his motivation behind creating the site, which lists his name as the author.
Shortly after Redlich launched his site last month, Runion, who is also a lawyer, created his own website, called www.therealkenrunion.com, to defend himself. “I’ve never used the web in the past, but I felt that I had to put up some sort of site to counter Redlich’s,” said Runion. “I had to diffuse misinformation and protect my name.”
On the home page of Runion’s website, he comments on the creation of Redlich’s site, along with Grimm’s involvement. “I just never thought anyone would do such a devious thing, especially two elected Guilderland Town Board members. I guess I should have known better as both of them have engaged in unethical conduct in past…The moral of the story is that if these two town board members would steal my identity, just think of what they might do to you.”
Redlich said that he thinks these political websites will be vital to the election process, should Grimm and Runion decide to run. People will do a Google search on the candidates, he said, and, when they search for Runion, they will land on the site he created.
“When they come up with my site, they will find the truth,” said Redlich. “We are absolutely trying to reach the voters and give them credible facts.”
Grimm, who runs a media consulting business, says he did not personally contribute to any of the websites, but was made aware of Redlich’s doings. He echoed the sentiment that Redlich’s site provides the truth. “You can go to the site for verification of facts,” he said. “It provides information and backs it up with evidence, including video clips. Let people dispute one fact on the website they can’t.”
Runion said he didn’t put his up website for election purposes, but said he will be using it to inform people about Guilderland Town Board news, and provide more detail on agenda items. Runion said he will use his site strictly for informative purposes, and not to slander anyone else’s name, which he feels was Redlich’s purpose in the site he created.
“I feel violated,” he said. “It was a very hurtful, vindictive, thing to do and demonstrates that certain individuals don’t have high ethical and moral standards.”
At the town board meeting on March 3, Runion informed Redlich and Grimm that he had blocked both of their e-mail addresses, because he was “fearful of them putting a virus on his computer,” or attempting to steal information from his desktop. Runion said he feels e-mail lacks security and is the most common way for viruses to be passed.
“That shows a complete lack of understanding of how the Internet works,” said Redlich. “I think that’s just another excuse for him not to work with us,” he told The Enterprise.
In addition to Redlich’s and Runion’s websites, other anonymous sites about Guilderland politics have cropped up on the web. Most are in defense of Runion, but no one is claiming authorship. They all contain the same information, mainly calling out Redlich and Grimm for being less than outstanding citizens. One such site, www.guilderlandnews.com, contains a blurb about each Republican.
Of Grimm it states, “When Mark Grimm isn’t doing ill-mannered things, you might find him visiting a local bistro, masquerading as a town board member and handing out his business card to anyone who will take it. Is it any surprise that his business card doesn’t even give the address of his ‘world headquarters’? When someone at the bistro asked him where his business was, he stated ‘Somewhere between Altamont and Fort Hunter.’ What a guy!”
The “world headquarters” reference is a phrase from Grimm’s business website, which became an issue since he was running it from his home without a permit. He later got one, but said the permit procedure should be changed for home businesses.
The same anonymous site says “As for Warren Redlich, when he isn’t out ‘chasing ambulances,’ writing satiric porn articles, or cyber-bullying, you might find him masquerading in Aruba as a town board member.” The reference to “satiric porn articles” is presumably to postings on a British site www.thespoof.com which made a splash last year.
Redlich and Grimm both said that what separates them from the Democrats is the fact that they believe in full disclosure. “I’m not hiding my stuff, I’m very open about it,” said Redlich.
“If somebody’s not willing to identify themselves, how do you trust them?” asked Grimm, referring to the anonymous sites, www.guilderlandnews.com and www.guilderlandenterprise.com. This site is in no way affiliated with The Altamont Enterprise, which is online at www.altamontenterprise.com. And, although many of the sites reference Enterprise articles, the independent newspaper is not involved with any of them, and follows a strict policy of confirming every letter writer and checking all facts.
Runion said he has no involvement with either of those sites and doesn’t know who is responsible for them. Redlich implied that Runion’s fellow Democrat, Donald Csaposs, might have been behind one or more of the sites, an implication that Csaposs denied.
“I’ve seen the despicable website of Warren Redlich,” said Csaposs. “I think it’s evidence of immaturity and lack of taste.”
Csaposs said that, prior to hearing from The Enterprise on Monday, he was not aware of the two anonymous sites. After looking at them, he said he would not have created such pages. “It’s all mud being slung, on both sides. Does it really matter who it is?” said Csaposs. “Sure, the mud slung from one side can be attributed, but I don’t think you get bonus points for being proud.”
Redlich said what it all boils down to is having the technological savvy to get information out there in front of the citizens who will be voting in the fall. Grimm concurred. “The Internet has democratized information,” he said. “Let people read and decide for themselves.”