Member of County Legislature posting on The Batavian under assumed name
In a conversation this afternoon, Grasso admitted that he made the posts because in his new part-time job he is discouraged from blogging.
"I love the site," Grasso said. "I ain't going to bullshit you, but I missed the site and I enjoy the site immensely."
A few weeks ago, Grasso took a two-day-a-week job with State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer working out of his Erie County office.
"They haven't banned me from it (leaving comments on The Batavian), but they just don't want me on there. But it's a good source for news and let's be real, it's damn entertaining. What can I say? I missed it."
We were alerted by local Democrats (we will let them reveal their identities in comments if they wish) that they suspected Barney was really Grasso. They noted similarities in outlook and writing style.
Upon further investigation, we found that on a handful of occasions, Barney left comments from the IP address associated with previous comments by Grasso. The Barney persona and Grasso where the only users to ever post from this IP address.
When we spoke to Grasso this morning, Grasso identified Barney as a good friend and member of the GOP county committee. He said he wasn't surprised Barney might post from the same IP address because they were close friends.
During the conversation -- which covered a range of local topics -- Grasso mentioned that he didn't post as frequently on the site because his new employer "wasn't keen" on him blogging.
We checked with local election commissioners and found that there is no Michael Barney on any GOP committee, nor is there a Barney registered to vote in Genesee County.
During our second call with Grasso, he quickly fessed up and said he and his wife discussed the issue on a shopping trip around noon and agreed he should admit to the nom de plume. "I can't bullshit you, Howard," he said. "I shouldn't have done it, but I just missed the site."
The Barney comments can be viewed here. Some of them do discuss county business, particularly related to the recent ambulance service controversy.
Outside of sticking up for the county's position on the ambulance service and a general conservative/Republican point of view, none of the Barney comments can be said to promote Jay Grasso. Though in one comment, he clearly contradicts the fact that Barney and Grasso are one and the same person:
Most local electeds will contact you if you reach out to them by phone. Perhaps you see Mallow and Grasso on here because they are younger. I am not sure how old they are. Does anyone know their ages? I am thinking older electeds are not familiar with blogs.
There is a term on the Web for prominent people who use fake names to promote their own causes: Sock puppets.
While I sympathize with Jay's predicament and constraints related to his new job, we clearly can't knowingly allow elected officials to post under false identities. The sock puppet issue is one of the primary reasons we do our best to enforce a real name policy on The Batavian.