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Thread: Ethics, Anonymity, and Public Service

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Default Ethics, Anonymity, and Public Service

    I missed the recent brouhaha on the fisheries forum, but it raised a question in my mind... The two quotes below from that thread exemplify the situation surrounding the gist of my question(s) (Bold emphasis mine).

    Under what circumstance would any public board member or nominee, deem it appropriate to anonymously post opinions or engage in debate on an internet forum about subject matter even remotely related to his/her nomination or position? Is this even remotely scrupulous, regardless of what is posted? Does this not, at the very least, create potential for the appearance of impropriety? Is there ever any legitimate reason do this? I can think of no reason other than to play dirty backdoor politics. To me this kind of behavior is extremely unprofessional and unethical. What am I missing?

    Allow me to shed a little light on this situation, as it's somewhat unusual. Many members do not use their real names on this site, and it's our policy to respect that. Sometimes they reveal their name to the community and later wish they hadn't. We respect their rights to privacy in those cases as well. None of that constitutes censorship or a cover-up on our part. We're simply respecting the wishes of our members concerning their personal information.

    This site has long enjoyed a politically-neutral posture for the most part. While each of us operating on the administrative side of the site (admins, moderators and the site owner) have opinions on many of the topics posted here, and are not restricted in any way from posting those views, the site itself maintains a posture of neutrality when it comes to politics. This includes the operations and appointees of the Board of Fisheries, the Board of Game, and other such organizations. In short, there is no agenda in this situation other than honoring a member's request for privacy.

    A word of advice, if I may. Anyone out there who may consider appointment to a position in fisheries management, game management, or any other political position would do well to decide in advance what they want to reveal about themselves on this site, and the potential fallout for doing so. Some choose anonymity and others will choose transparency. It's an individual decision, and this site will respect either choice.

    -Mike

    http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...9-BOF-Nominees
    To Brian and Michael,

    If I ever get appointed to the Board of Game or Fish, you have my permission to let people quote me from this forum using my real name .

    http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...9-BOF-Nominees
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
    I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. ~Gerry Spence
    The last thing Alaska needs is another bigot. ~member Catch It
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    Member AlaskaHippie's Avatar
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    Default Ethics, Anonymity, and Public Service

    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    I missed the recent brouhaha on the fisheries forum, but it raised a question in my mind... The two quotes below from that thread exemplify the situation surrounding the gist of my question(s) (Bold emphasis mine).

    Under what circumstance would any public board member or nominee, deem it appropriate to anonymously post opinions or engage in debate on an internet forum about subject matter even remotely related to his/her nomination or position? Is this even remotely scrupulous, regardless of what is posted? Does this not, at the very least, create potential for the appearance of impropriety? Is there ever any legitimate reason do this? I can think of no reason other than to play dirty backdoor politics. To me this kind of behavior is extremely unprofessional and unethical. What am I missing?

    Great post.

    I'd ask <name removed> the same questions. But he seems to be under the protection of this website.

    So likely he won't answer.
    Last edited by Brian M; 02-06-2016 at 18:01.
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    I missed the recent brouhaha on the fisheries forum, but it raised a question in my mind... The two quotes below from that thread exemplify the situation surrounding the gist of my question(s) (Bold emphasis mine).

    Under what circumstance would any public board member or nominee, deem it appropriate to anonymously post opinions or engage in debate on an internet forum about subject matter even remotely related to his/her nomination or position? Is this even remotely scrupulous, regardless of what is posted? Does this not, at the very least, create potential for the appearance of impropriety? Is there ever any legitimate reason do this? I can think of no reason other than to play dirty backdoor politics. To me this kind of behavior is extremely unprofessional and unethical. What am I missing?
    You raise a good question. In the situation that arose in the Fisheries Management Forum, a member who chooses anonymity via his username apparently posted his real name in one or more of his posts in the past. It's possible that at the time he posted his real name, he had no inclination to serve on the BOF, much less knowledge that he would be nominated to do so. At that time, he saw no risk in posting his real name. Circumstances changed, however, and it's possible that someone might try to use some of his comments against him in an effort to demonstrate issues that might remove him from consideration. So in this particular case, the member was not a public official at the time he posted his name.

    As we have all seen, the Internet can be a cruel place at times, primarily because not all people approach issues (or each other) with kindness and respect. All have a seat at the table here, unless they violate our rules to the point where they have to be removed. Thankfully, that rarely happens here. But in this case, I think I can see both sides. On one hand, you have a person who may or may not have said something they didn't mean, or which could have been misunderstood. Or who knows? Perhaps they just thought about it a while and changed their position. On the other hand, there is at least one individual who wants to expose what he believes is an inconsistency or a flaw in that person, that casts a shadow over his nomination. I understand that too. In the end, the only thing this site can do to resolve the conflict is to respect the wishes of the individual who wants to protect their privacy. Perhaps it's not the best decision in terms of figuring out what position that person takes on the issues (an important thing to know, by the way), but the alternative for this site is to open the door to similar attacks on other members.

    Finally, we know that there are many public officials on this site, and we encourage their participation, whether or not they choose to remain anonymous. I don't see anonymity as an ethical question so much as a privacy question. If anything, the private person, in choosing obscurity, is relying on sound reasoning as the basis of his arguments, rather than leveraging his position to make his point.

    I'm sure our system here has flaws, and that there are other ways to handle things like this. We try to write our rules in a way that allows folks to speak freely, and I can say that in the 20 years this site has been online, I think this is the first time something like this has come up. Hopefully it will give all of us something to think about when it comes to the transparency / obscurity question.

    Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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    Member AlaskaHippie's Avatar
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    Default Ethics, Anonymity, and Public Service

    Sorry Mike but I disagree.

    He opted to use his real names on these boards, and splitting hairs as to when he did or did not sign his name, is splitting a mighty fine hair.

    I could toss up a litany of paragraphs, but what's the point? The site has opted to remove pertinent posts illustrating the positions of a potential BOF member, and still calls itself an "information" site.

    'Nuff said.
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
    "Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you."

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Ethics, Anonymity, and Public Service

    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaHippie View Post
    Great post.

    I'd ask him the same questions. But he seems to be under the protection of this website.

    So likely he won't answer.
    I think you know better. Neither Brian or myself see eye-to-eye with him on some issues. We are not protecting anything but his privacy, at his request. If anyone has questions for him, I encourage you to contact him directly.
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    I think you know better. Neither Brian or myself see eye-to-eye with him on some issues. We are not protecting anything but his privacy, at his request. If anyone has questions for him, I encourage you to contact him directly.
    He voided that request when he signed his real name here.

    It's not his privacy that he wants protected. It's his arse.
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
    "Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you."

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    Member cod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    I missed the recent brouhaha on the fisheries forum, but it raised a question in my mind... The two quotes below from that thread exemplify the situation surrounding the gist of my question(s) (Bold emphasis mine).

    Under what circumstance would any public board member or nominee, deem it appropriate to anonymously post opinions or engage in debate on an internet forum about subject matter even remotely related to his/her nomination or position? Is this even remotely scrupulous, regardless of what is posted? Does this not, at the very least, create potential for the appearance of impropriety? Is there ever any legitimate reason do this? I can think of no reason other than to play dirty backdoor politics. To me this kind of behavior is extremely unprofessional and unethical. What am I missing?

    You our asked a number of questions there IO. Let me see if I'm getting your drift, because w/o the actual spoken or written words you are referring to, it's hard to make a judgement.
    If it were ME, I would not likely have any qualms about ananimity or not regarding my position on something of public concern. Why? Because what I would post is what I would STAND BEHIND. Since I value truth, I don't have a problem posting my positions.
    I can only assume, since it has yet to be spelled out by the mods why they did what they did ( deletion etc) that he must have requested those posts be removed by the mods. The request could be legit or not. Maybe his kid posted under his name. Maybe he was hacked! Maybe his wires got crossed in the interweb tubes.
    And maybe he opened his big mouth and realized he may have stuck his foot in it! We can only speculate can't we?
    I know one thing tho. He's more than welcome to post on this forum as far as I'm concerned. Nothing like watching,seeing, hearing, right from the horses mouth!
    Are we on the same page, OI?

    Ahhh... So edited. Mike has clarified. It WAS at his request. (To save his arse).
    Last edited by Brian M; 02-06-2016 at 18:30.
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    My reason for posting this was not to question this site's positions/policies, or even single out an individual member. Yes it's well known that civil servants frequent the forums. But for a public servant to read for his/her own information, is far different from wading into contentious public debate, to argue and voice opinion, and perhaps practice dirty politics, while maintaining anonymity is what's unscrupulous. I don't know what the answer is, but the practice should be infuriating to the public.

    If I were to find myself serving, or considering serving on a fish or game board, or any other public position, I would either remain completely mum on debate the subject of which is relevant to my Board, or I would come out publicly and own my statements and position and live with them. There doesn't seem to be any other scrupulous way to go about it.

    My impression (perhaps incorrect?) is that there are lots of players here in Alaska who don't live by those same values.
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
    I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. ~Gerry Spence
    The last thing Alaska needs is another bigot. ~member Catch It
    #Resist

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cod View Post
    You our asked a number of questions there IO. Let me see if I'm getting your drift, because w/o the actual spoken or written words you are referring to, it's hard to make a judgement.
    If it were ME, I would not likely have any qualms about ananimity or not regarding my position on something of public concern. Why? Because what I would post is what I would STAND BEHIND. Since I value truth, I don't have a problem posting my positions.
    I can only assume, since it has yet to be spelled out by the mods why they did what they did ( deletion etc) that Skwentnaman must have requested those posts be removed by the mods. The request could be legit or not. Maybe his kid posted under his name. Maybe he was hacked! Maybe his wires got crossed in the interweb tubes.
    And maybe he opened his big mouth and realized he may have stuck his foot in it! We can only speculate can't we?
    I know one thing tho. He's more than welcome to post on this forum as far as I'm concerned. Nothing like watching,seeing, hearing, right from the horses mouth!
    Are we on the same page, OI?

    Ahhh... So edited. Mike has clarified. It WAS at his request. (To save his arse).
    First, in the discussion that I had with the member in question, he did not ask for the post to be deleted, nor did he ask for me to edit his past posts which he attached his name to (which has not been done). He expressed concern that the posts quoted did not accurately/fully reflect his views on fisheries management and also noted that the posts he attached his name to had nothing to do with the quotes being used to paint a picture of his views. In fact, he stressed that he wasn't asking for the posts to be deleted. That was a decision that Mike and I came to ourselves. What he said to Mike, I cannot say - but that was the content of my conversation with him.

    Also, it has most certainly been spelled out why we did what we did. I made that clear in my first post on the matter.

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Maybe I should have waited a few weeks before raising the subject... I really wasn't intending it to be about the one individual being argued over.
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
    I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. ~Gerry Spence
    The last thing Alaska needs is another bigot. ~member Catch It
    #Resist

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    Member AlaskaHippie's Avatar
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    And now you're removing his username from the discussion??

    Wow.

    He's "not being protected" by the site....


    He must have some pull.
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
    "Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you."

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    ...he did not ask for the post to be deleted, nor did he ask for me to edit his past posts which he attached his name to (which has not been done). He expressed concern that the posts quoted did not accurately/fully reflect his views on fisheries management and also noted that the posts he attached his name to had nothing to do with the quotes being used to paint a picture of his views. In fact, he stressed that he wasn't asking for the posts to be deleted. That was a decision that Mike and I came to ourselves. What he said to Mike, I cannot say - but that was the content of my conversation with him.

    Also, it has most certainly been spelled out why we did what we did. I made that clear in my first post on the matter.
    My apologies; I stand corrected.

    What can I say? I'm recovering from surgery, and am probably not firing on all cylinders. Good thing I'm not running for public office!

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
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    Member AlaskaHippie's Avatar
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    So when is AOD officially endorsing him?
    “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” ― H.S.T.
    "Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you."

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaHippie View Post
    And now you're removing his username from the discussion??

    Wow.

    He's "not being protected" by the site....


    He must have some pull.
    Mike, not using his name was the entire point of what went down. It is painfully obvious which Board of Fish nominee we're talking about. We've asked people to not link his name to his screenname here. We didn't ask people to dance around it. Folks can do their own searches and come to their own conclusions. W

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    Also, it has most certainly been spelled out why we did what we did. I made that clear in my first post on the matter.
    Guess I'll have to go back and read your posts a third time. Maybe YOU thought you were clear on it, but obviously some of us dunderheads didn't pick up on it.
    In my above post I should have put quotation marks around Mike' quote..."...at his request." Unquote
    That is the first time I recall getting THAT information. But maybe I missed it before. At any rate, it's kinda at the crux of the matter.

    On on another note, I would like to comment respectfully on Mikes quote below.

    "As we have all seen, the Internet can be a cruel place at times, primarily because not all people approach issues (or each other) with kindness and respect. All have a seat at the table here, unless they violate our rules to the point where they have to be removed. Thankfully, that rarely happens here. But in this case, I think I can see both sides. On one hand, you have a person who may or may not have said something they didn't mean, or which could have been misunderstood. Or who knows? Perhaps they just thought about it a while and changed their position. On the other hand, there is at least one individual who wants to expose what he believes is an inconsistency or a flaw in that person, that casts a shadow over his nomination. I understand that too. In the end, the only thing this site can do to resolve the conflict is to respect the wishes of the individual who wants to protect their privacy. Perhaps it's not the best decision in terms of figuring out what position that person takes on the issues (an important thing to know, by the way), but the alternative for this site is to open the door to similar attacks on other members."

    My opinion/view on this paragraph is its more pc run amuck. Almost as bad as not allowing govt to review public Facebook posts of immigrants.
    Mike, the crime is in NOT, -letting people post. It's NOT, -
    in LETTING people post.
    If you were to refuse Skman to post his rebuttal, his 'misinterpretations, his excuses, his reasons etc etc. That, my friend, would be unfair.
    To take Skman words attributed to HIM off the public domain, where he posted it himself is just a mistake, in my mind. It's a disservice to the good of the public. As long as he has the opportunity to defend himself, there should be no interference.
    Your site, my humble opinion.




    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Time to hit the reset button.

    As is my normal pattern, I have had my head buried in other aspects of this site (a new directory for the Members program, launching a new forum, a brand-new topo map program for the site, security stuff, a new payment gateway for the entire site, the membership program, and software updates to name just a few.) The point is, my attention has been elsewhere, and has not been on this situation. It now has my full attention.

    As to the questions raised by the OP, I should have simply said that the person involved is not a public official, and left it at that. My apologies for going further than I should have. Doing so resulted in this new thread, where we're hashing it all out again. That was not my intention.

    Brian and I just discussed this thread over the phone, and we recognize that the specific situation in question is a tough one. And it doesn't get easier when I make mistakes, and when other members either misunderstand or misrepresent what we are trying to do.

    I went back and read the entire thread in the Fisheries Management Forum, including the comments that were deleted, and I have come to some conclusions. I think this is a time when we need to lay out a clear path. On that basis, this is the course we are going to take.

    ==============

    Our forum rules have stood us in good stead for 20 years, and we've been really clear about letting people know that we expect them to treat each other with decency and respect. We've done a pretty good job at holding that line. We will continue to do that.

    In the past we have allowed some discussion about the politics of fisheries and game management, including the individuals charged with representing Alaska's resources and the various user groups. Those discussions sometimes get messy, and they almost always evoke emotional responses from some of our members. We will continue to allow such discussions, but we remind our members to steer clear of personal attacks on people, including public officials.

    ==============

    In short, nothing is changing. The forum rules will remain the same, and we are not going to make an exception for political nominees or others.

    This situation has brought this community into territory we've never traveled before. To my knowledge, this is the first time an active member of the forum community has been considered for this kind of political post. In considering that, I asked myself if that should make a difference in the way we handle that person's posts, or if we need to refine our rules in order to protect that person's political prospects. In the end, I realized that the rules are working just fine, and that, if a person's political prospects are being damaged by something they wrote, the responsibility for that lies with the individual who wrote the material. Not this site. The same holds true when any individual is being misquoted, or selectively quoted. Over the years, our members have done a pretty good job of defending themselves when they're being poked, prodded, multi-quoted or misrepresented, and I can only hope that they would continue to do the same if they are being considered for a political post. That said, it would be wise to remember that a political nominee may have all sorts of legitimate reasons for refraining from posting in a venue like this, once they are nominated. We need to respect their silence, if they choose not to answer. And, if necessary, contact them through other means if you need answers to your questions. None of us knows the entire story.

    On a personal note, I hope our members realize that there's a big difference between serving on an A/C and serving on the BOG or the BOF. In the latter case, you are called upon to represent a much larger body of folks, and to help ensure that the concerns of all user groups are heard. Therefore it is possible that a person may change their views on some things in the transition. If you're not sure where that person stands, you might be better off asking them directly, rather than relying on something they may have said a long time ago. Have any of you changed your views on anything in the last ten years? There you go.

    Finally, a couple of words of caution. First, as with any form of social media, be careful what you post. The Internet is filled with all sorts of people, and it's possible for unsavory folks to show up just about anywhere. Don't post anything that you would not want to see posted in public. This IS in public. If you don't want your name used, don't post it. If you don't want people to see photos of your family, don't post them. Same goes for any other personal details about you or your life. It's your call, but I would encourage caution. Second, please use good judgment when you're posting things that could cause conflict. Treat people the way you want to be treated. And if someone chooses not to answer you, respect their right to silence. This site will not tolerate the harassment of another member, so if you don't get an answer, let it go.

    In the case of this particular political situation, if someone wants to start another thread in the Fisheries Management forum, have at it. But please be nice to each other. Please.

    Hope this clears things up!

    Carry on-

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    I have served on a public board....for many years. No secrets. Public calls you at home. Some know what they are talking about and make good points. Others might be clueless. You listen to them all.
    I have voted against my own best wishes based on what the folks I represented communicated to me. I have been smeared on the radio and in print because I didn't follow someone's wishes. Lies told. You must have a bit of thick skin.
    It can be a thankless job, and you don't even get paid for it. Hours of public service, and there are folks who will rake you over the coals for it.
    When you are doing right, few people acknowledge it. But every once in a while you get a pat on the back.
    I could say more, but won't for now.
    Hunt Ethically. Respect the Environment.

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    I'll say it, Smoke. Thanks for your service.
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

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    Quote Originally Posted by cod View Post
    I'll say it, Smoke. Thanks for your service.
    Thanks, i appreciate that.
    Hunt Ethically. Respect the Environment.

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    For what it's worth, I have applied for a BOG seat a couple times now, and I have continued to discuss issues here relevant to that seat. But I use my real name and don't post anonymously. When I applied for BOG seat I told them in my letter about this, and even linked to op-eds I'd written in the past. I figure it makes it easier all the way around for those who will vet candidates, to know what they're getting into. And it helps the governor too that it doesn't come up as a surprise in confirmation hearings.

    I guess I'd say to anyone out there who has posted here, and may be a candidate for BOF or BOG, I would recommend telling Boards and Commissions about your posts here. Even if you haven't used your real name. It's real dirty politics now with these seats, and you don't want to be blindsided either when Senate or House Resources is questioning you and a legislator says, "I have this letter from a constituent saying you regularly post on the Alaska Outdoors Forum, is this your screenname?" If something is taken out of context or your views have changed, as many of ours have as we learn more and grow older, then own it and say so and move on. Don't believe it for-sure won't come up when people do oppo-research on you.

    Inre IOFT's initial post, of course some people have to post anonymously. We do have some public civil servants posting here anonymously. Maybe it's a bio who is trying to shed light on a subject or provide links or more info. Just one example. So I don't see that as always a bad thing, if that is what you're implying, IOFT. The state does have some rules about this for employees, as you know. As far as BOG or BOF members posting here anonymously, I can see how it could go either way, good or bad, helpful or manipulative. I know some who really want to post if they are getting slammed <Grin>.





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