The Police Chief and City Clerk of Whitewater, Wisconsin are talking about me. Or, at least they were, I think.
Why, you ask? That's a good question.
I first heard there was a Whitewater, Wisconsin earlier today when I opened an e-mail sent to me by Publius, an anonymous blogger who writes at the Foothill Cities Blog and who served as a source for a story I wrote back in September about the tactics some cities use to uncover the identities of anonymous bloggers they consider to be pests (the story, which you can read here, is key evidence of my involvement in the conspiracy - but more on that later).
Publius sent me a link to this post, and that's where I slipped into the rabbit hole. As I started to follow the links, I found myself at the center of a bumbling hunt to uncover the identity of one "John Adams," anonymous author of Free Whitewater.
In a series of posts based on memos and e-mails he got through a public records request, John Adams chronicles the strange interactions of a handful of city employees hell bent on finding him out. A few read like Fargo just before the wood chipper gets switched on.
Clearly John Adams has a few problems with Police Chief James Coan. And in a town this small - population hovers around 14,000 - feuds can get heated. But this got weird. Coan and Michele Smith, the city clerk, apparently enlisted the help of fellow city employees (a police detective, the city information officer), ran license plates, traded theories, spied on and confronted "suspects."
The memos and e-mails include some real gems that, upon first reading them, made me think the whole thing was a hoax.
Here's an excerpt from an e-mail sent by police Sgt. Tina Winger to Chief Coan, alerting him to the blog: I don’t know if you have ever visited this web site, but I think it is someone we want to keep an eye on. Do you know who John Adams is? Seems like an anti-government radical to me. I’m going to dig a little more to try and get more intelligence on this goof.
Chief Coan responds: Thanks for the heads-up, but I have been well aware of the website for sometime now. Although I have a few suspects, I do not know who “John Adams” is (yet). I agree with your assessment of the guy. He has been taking plenty of “shots” at me, our Department, and City Government in general (including DPW and the Fire Department).
It is certainly someone who actually writes pretty well, but who is obviously very arrogant, very liberal, and very condescending in what he writes. Please check with Ryan as I passed on to him some information that might be helpful in identifying who this might be. Thanks!
The City Information Officer also did a little sleuthing and reports that John Adams is a Charter Communications customer and, in his estimation, a student or teacher at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater because he posts to Wikipedia.
Maybe the winter weather has made them restless.
So how did I become implicated in this Whitewater scandal? It's all in this memo. Someone (the author's name is blacked out) did some digging around and found my September article and then came to some conclusions. It seems John Adams had linked to the Foothill Cities Blog and, since the Foothill Cities Blog had linked to my story, I must have some connection to John Adams.
Apparently, one of the people the Coan cabal suspected to be John Adams shares my rare last name, Scott (#36). A little more research revealed that I was "a prominent (arguable) reporter and blogger (wasn't at the time) who has worked for different newspapers in Pomona (no), Pasadena (yes) and Claremont (yes) as a political reporter since 1997." The person included a link to a feature story I did for the Pomona College Magazine and noted that "there are even 2 photos of him accompanying" the piece (the pictures are of Barry Braverman, the Disney exec I had profiled).
Then they nail me: WOW!!! BINGO!!! I just found a long, detailed, fascinating article by Gary Scott in the archives of the “FOOTHILL CITIES BLOG” on the legal rights of bloggers, especially in small towns across the country as these bloggers turn their sights [sic] on their local city halls and city governments.
Wait, there's more: This article, written by Gary Scott is INCREDIBLE because he states, in lengthier and more detailed form, all the same arguments that “John Adams” wrote about with a link on “Free Whitewater”.
Incredible? Well, that's too kind. I didn't think it was my best work.
Still, I've always wanted to be an influential writer. So I'll take it. I'm guilty. Am I under arrest?