Former Fletcher Official Claims Blog Blocked Because Of Criticism

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - An Internet Web log critical of Gov. Ernie
Fletcher's administration was ordered blocked by his running mate
in an attempt to silence the site's author, a former state official
has claimed.
Robbie Rudolph, Fletcher's running mate and executive cabinet
secretary, ordered BluegrassReport.org blocked as part of a state
crackdown on access to Internet blogs, Michael Inman, the state's
former technology commissioner, claimed in a sworn statement
Friday.
The now-defunct site, which was run by Democrat Mark Nickolas,
had been critical of Fletcher's administration.
"It was apparent that the state had intentionally targeted
BluegrassReport.org and had blocked the category of blogs and other
categories of Web sites in an attempt to disguise that fact,"
Inman said in his statement.
Inman's statement was filed in U.S. District Court in Frankfort
as part of a federal First Amendment lawsuit, The (Louisville)
Courier-Journal reported.
Nickolas claimed the administration tried to keep state
employees from reading his site by preventing state computers'
access to his Web site and others like it.
Fletcher spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker said she hadn't seen Inman's
affidavit and declined comment. Administration officials have
previously said they did not target Nickolas' site, but blocked it
along with numerous others to prevent inappropriate employee
access.
Inman, however, said in the affidavit that Rudolph had
complained about the Web site and "would express frustration"
about it.
Inman said then-Deputy Technology Commissioner Mark Rutledge
told him access to Nickolas' Web site was blocked in June 2006. The
site was blocked shortly after Nickolas was quoted in a New York
Times' story about Fletcher.
Nickolas was U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler's campaign manager during
the 2003 gubernatorial campaign against Fletcher.
Inman said he questioned whether blocking the site was legal and
claimed Rutledge told him, "They wouldn't ever know we did it. We
hid it in a bunch of other stuff."
Inman, a Republican, said he thought it was Rudolph who ordered
such sites blocked. Inman was fired last August, and Rutledge
replaced him as commissioner.
"Based on Rutledge's close alliance with Rudolph, I believe
that the decision to block the Web site came directly from Rudolph
in the governor's office as a result of Mark Nickolas' criticism of
the administration," Inman said in the statement.
Nickolas said Inman's statement "shows beyond a doubt the
governor's office targeted me."
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Information from: The Courier-Journal,
http://www.courier-journal.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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