Who owns Internet address?
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Larry Rettger began his Munhall News Watch blog in 2007.
He tweets and runs a Facebook page with the same name, posting story links, board meeting remind- ers, police scanner chatter and buzz about crime in the area, among other things.
When the registration at munhallnewswatch.com expired in 2008 or 2009, he tried to renew it and discovered someone else had purchased the URL. The page had nothing on it, but every time he checked to see if it was available, it was owned by someone else.
In the meantime, he bought themunhallnewswatch.com, blogged there and maintained his Twitter and Facebook presence.
Last month, he checked on the old site again, only to find it pointing directly at the Munhall police department's Facebook page, Munhall Crime Watch.
Munhall Mayor Raymond Bodnar said he didn't authorize the URL purchase and plans to ask questions about how it was acquired. A police department employee said the mayor planned to have one-on-one meetings Tuesday with some department members about the matter.
It may not violate any policies or laws and the cost would not be significant, but the mayor said Monday it appears deceptive.
Mr. Rettger, who was a West Homestead police officer from 1995 to 2000, thinks the borough purchased the URL in an effort to quash his voice.
"Anytime I post something, they'll say it's inaccurate," Mr. Rettger said.
Munhall police department dispatcher Andy Quayle said neither the police department nor the borough bought the URL. He had no further comment.
Mr. Quayle manages the Munhall Crime Watch Facebook page and also is CEO of Tubu Internet Solutions, an Internet company whose services include web hosting and domain services. He said the URL was a dead link before, and anyone who wanted to buy it could have done so.
Mr. Bodnar, who is in charge of the police department, said he gave Munhall Crime Watch Facebook administrators permission to post on the page when it was created last year.
"Yeah, it bothers me that I didn't authorize [the purchase of the URL], but I may have authorized it earlier by telling them to do what you've got to do" on the Facebook page, he said.
Asked if he had any idea who might own the URL, Mr. Bodnar said, "I would imagine one of our officers might own it."
Munhall Police Chief Patrick D. Campbell could not be reached.
Mr. Quayle said the police department's Munhall Crime Watch started as an effort to combat misinformation on social media.
He cited an example from last month when Mr. Rettger sent a tweet from Munhall Crime Alerts about a boat accident. (Mr. Rettger also manages that feed and the Perry Street Crime Watch Facebook page.)
Local TV stations were calling the dispatch center about the accident, which Mr. Quayle said they learned about because of Twitter feed. But the accident was in Elizabeth Township, not Munhall, Mr. Quayle said. It's hurting the borough's reputation, he said.
"Shootings often turn out to be non-events or fireworks," he said. "Nobody updates the feed."
First Published July 6, 2012 12:00 am