Read all about what you are paying Hammond city employees to do to you: Does this mayor protest too much?Sunday, June 29, 2008 Someone in Hammond City Hall has been using city computers on city time to destroy public comments critical of Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. and his administration. When I called to let McDermott know, he went absolutely ballistic. Not because of the waste of tax money, but because he was told about it.
"It sort of (makes me angry) that you are even calling me," he said, which I thought was kind of strange until I realized he thought I was accusing him of something shady. I wasn't. I just thought as the city's chief executive he'd care how his employees were using their day, but instead he said he doesn't believe it and that it is impossible to trace a computer.
The Times has message boards on its Web site, on which people may post electronic thoughts on things from the war in Iraq to memories of summer evenings at Dari-Belle. Some of the recent topics have been critical of McDermott's relationship with convicted political operative Bob Cantrell, of problems with development of the River Park property and questions over his personal use of a city car he gets through the water department. The Times allows board users to remove responses on a thread, and the anti-McDermott threads have been vanishing like an endangered species.
Our online guy, Yuri Victor, traced the computers used to delete the anti-McDermott threads to City Hall, and I called McDermott to let him know.
It's the computer age equivalent of pulling campaign signs out of yards, but as long as we allow this to be done we can't complain about people doing it. But if your staff has time to do this on city time with city equipment, don't tell us we need a county income tax. Don't send your fire chief to Indianapolis to cry poor mouth and say he will have to cut public safety and people will die because of property tax caps. Delete at home, on your own time. Have your flunkies do it at home, on their own time. It may be babyish, but I don't care. But don't respond with unbelievable stuff like, "I think you're making this up. I think you're on a witch hunt."
I let him speak with Victor, who explained how he traced the complex web back to City Hall. "It doesn't satisfy me. I think you guys are lying. On the record, I think you're making stuff up," the mayor said. "I don't think it's possible to triangulate. I think it's impossible."
Why is McDermott so defensive? If I didn't know better, I'd say he sounds like a man with something to hide.