A regular reader of the blog, Thom Page, posted the following comments earlier today: "Kevin : Here we are with the pros and cons of anonymous comments again. I think you would do yourself, the City and everyone a favor if you just stopped them and instead let those anonymous commenters tell you what information they have, and you post it yourself under your own name - that would instill some accountability. If your commenters won't put their names on things they say(and be accountable), you can get the information out to the public easily by putting out these presumably valuable pieces of information as regular postings on your blog, just like print journalists.
It's time for all this legitimate and necessary information to have at least a semblance of credibility, especially since it is so relevant to the City's health and future. Chief Roberts and everyone else who complains about anonymous postings have a legitimate point."
Thom, I have to totally disagree with you. When I asked myself "where do I begin?" to reply to your comment, I decided to begin at the very beginning of the reasons that resulted in the creation of this blog. I never had a strong desire to get into the realm of "journalism", and I still don't, although I have been told by "real" journalists that by default I guess I am now considered a journalist.
The reason for this blog being created was a direct result of the Perez investigation and Grand Jury. During that time I guess I developed a reputation as someone that could be trusted with confidential information and capable and willing to protect the identity of my sources. Once people were comfortable with that, the information began coming to me on a regular basis.
Although I had a good working relationship with the investigators from the Law Enforcement community, both state and federal, that were working on the Perez case I was still concerned with being able to protect my sources. I felt first hand the retaliation from Perez and his camp and I was set on protecting those providing information to me from suffering any retaliation.
A close friend of mine, who is actually a professional journalist, attended a conference regarding investigative journalism and when he returned he immediately told me I needed to start a blog. I thought he was crazy and I told him I had no desire to get involved with a blog. He knew my concern for protecting my sources and as a safety factor, he also knew who many of my sources were as well as the information they were providing to me.
He was also provided with copies of documents that were provided to me so that there was always a second copy. Since I trusted him, we had an arrangement that none of the information could be used for any story or for any other reason other than an extreme emergency. I know that sounds like James Bond cloak and dagger, but it was the reality of dealing with a situation like this.
So getting back to the reason for the blog. During his semainars, apparently it was explained that bloggers are now considered legitimate journalists and because of that, Federal rulings have protected bloggers and their sources under the "shield laws" extended to "real journalists". In some ways, that would prevent me from being forced to divulge my sources.
So the blog was started. The information continued to come in during and after the Grand Jury, through the trial and even after the conviction of Perez. By that time I had developed a reputation, I guess, as someone that was not afraid to put his neck on the line as well as protecting the identity of those that were providing information to me.
You have to understand that Hartford Municipal Government is still in a bunker mentality, corruption is still alive and well, and people are willing to protect their part of the corrupt operations at almost any cost.
Hartford Police Chief Daryl Roberts once remarked to me that he would love to know who my sources are. I replied back "that's the beauty of it Chief, you never will". I didn't mean that to be obnoxious, but that is why people talk to me, because I understand the great personal risk they are taking to both their careers and their reputations by trying to do what is right and expose issues that are damaging our City.
Thom, although you assume that all of the comments are anonymous, I have actually suggested to posters that have posted under their real names or e-mail address that they let me post it anonymously. In a perfect world, people would be free to speak their mind and if it exposed a problem, you would hope that they would be thanked for their efforts to make Hartford a better place. You know as well as I do that is not the mindset in Hartford.
Individuals who address problems openly and through proper channels, face almost immediate and definite retaliation from their supervisors in many cases. How much do you think the "outside investigation" currently underway at HPD will cost us as taxpayers, not to mention the resulting lawsuits and claims from those who it will most likely show were retaliated against.
I realize there are those that have no problem spewing venom under the title of "Anonymous", but I also realize the importance of good people being able to provide valuable information to affect change under the moniker of "Anonymous". Would it make a difference if I still allowed the "crazies" to post as "Anonymous" but ask those sane people with valuable information to post as "Mark Twain" or some other name. This is the internet and any adult with any common sense has to wiegh the value they put on "Anonymous" comments.
I could have 50 people posting tomorrow under the name of "Thom Page", "Richard Nixon" or "Thomas Jefferson" and unless all posters are required to purchase a verified membership and be provided with a password or some other security measure, let me know how to correct that or verify that they actually aren't "Anonymous" capable of typing another name. That is the reality of the Internet and the age of technology we live in.
But, when I weigh that against the value of the change that has been brought about by the information uncovered by this blog, I will decide in favor of allowing the postings "anonymously". I will continue to provide a venue to force change.
Think back about the change that has been a direct result of this blog. Let's start with the removal of a corrupt Mayor and his eventual conviction on criminal charges. Jeff Cohen was the first to report on that when he was still with the Courant, but as the Grand Jury proceeded, much of the information provided to investigators was a result of "Anonymous" posters who were put in touch with State's Attorney Inspectors.
And don't forget the antics of John Rose and information posted here that warranted FOI requests that Rose refused. Several of those requests and subsequent FOI hearings resulted in fines against Rose and others. The issue of City credit card abuse was was given to me by an "Anonymous" source. Although they had tried to go through the proper channels, nothing was done and nothing changed. When I got to work on it, it proved to be a huge embarassment to City officials. The end result was that it was estimated that in the first year after exposing the problem, the City of Hartford saved at least $1.5 million by addressing the misuse of City credit cards.
The "Anonymous" source that originally exposed that probably would have been out of a job if they posted under their real name.
More recently do you recall the sexual harassment aleegations that resulted in the removal opf the Director of MHIS? That would have never happened if the affected City employess did not have the confidence in theis blog to reach out to me and ask for help after their request through the proper channels fell on deaf ears for weeks.
The "anonymous" poster that turned me on to $2.7 million in bonuses paid out to Board of Education employees probably would not have been rewarded as the employee of the month if they posted under their real name.
We see the retaliation everyday throughout City governmwent.
Ask Willie Edwards what happens when you do your job and question someone dumping at the landfill transfer station without a permit. The retribution is swift and prompt.
Ask Lt. Marco Tedeschi, the Advocate at HPD, what happens when you voice your opinion and refuse to railroad another Lieutenant into a demotion through a sham hearing orchestrated through the Corporation Counsel and Command staff at HPD. A transfer will be swift and prompt.
Ask former Deputy Chief Dan Nolan from the Hartford Fire Department what happens when you refuse to buy into hirings forced by a corrupt Mayor for politically connected "recruits" who apparently aren't qualified to perform the duties required. That one is simple since it has already played out. You get fired, the Labor Board decides in his favor and the City is still willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect and preserve corruption.
The list could go on and on, but for you and I Thom, the answer is simple. We work for ourselves and it is not an issue to identify ourselves.It is not so simple for the others who still work in what remains a corrupt system and where they are not routinely rewarded for doing the right thing, but instead almost certainly will face retaliation. It saddens me, but unfortunately it is a fact of life in Hartford.
In the meantime, I will continue to accept "Anonymous" comments, I will continue to accept e-mails from Donald duck, Mickey Mouse or anyone else and I will continue to accept calls from blocked numbers. As a reasoning, thinking human being, I can make my own determination as to those I think have value and those that I think do not.
Every reader of this blog has the same ability. I will still continue to moderate postings as I see fit. And until such time as we have an Administration that realizes the importance of "whistleblowers" and actually protects them rather than allow them to be retaliated against, I encourage them all to keep contacting me