Douglas Kukucka in the Sun!

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Jul 2, 2000, 3:00:00 AM7/2/00
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TEXT:

When the Baltimore Convention Center dismissed Douglas Kukucka
as
director of building services last year, the 35-year-old engineer did
what
any city employee who feels wronged might do: he wrote letters and
called
elected officials, including the mayor.

But dissatisfied with the lack of response from city officials,
Kukucka
turned to the weapon of the '90s, the Internet. He and his friends
trash
Baltimore through their Web site.

"Baltimore City's murder rate is rising again!" blares one line.

"The syphilis capitol in the U.S.," says another.

"What goes on behind the scenes in Charm City will surprise
you!"
screams a third.

The site has garnered the attention of Baltimore officials -- which
is
what Kukucka wanted.

Kukucka, who declined to identify his associates, contends that he
was a
victim of discrimination, sexual harassment and an unreasonable
workload
from convention officials and that he was wrongly blamed for
problems
caused by a drunken employee, illiterate workers, and failures in
health
and safety policies.

"To this day, I'm upset about it," Kukucka said.

Kukucka and friends are part of a growing number of people using
the
Internet to attack anyone from employers to teachers. And courts
are
supporting the online critics, saying the Internet is protected by the
same
free speech rights given to books, newspapers and pamphlets.

In April, a northeast Ohio school district agreed to settle a
federal
lawsuit by paying $30,000 to a high school student it had suspended
for
creating a Web site describing his band teacher as a chubby man with a
bad
haircut who played favorites.

A federal judge in Seattle ruled earlier this year that a consumer
had
the right to post slurs and personal information about executives
of a
credit card company after the man became involved in a dispute
over a
credit report. The Web site organizer called the executives "scumbags,
jack
asses and jerks" and posted their home addresses, phone numbers and maps
to
their homes.

`More people more quickly'
"You have the right to create a Web site just as much as you
have a
right to make up a pamphlet and pass it out," said Solange Bitol, a
First
Amendment attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in
Washington.
"What makes people nervous is that your criticism can reach more
people
more quickly."

Baltimore Convention Center officials are trying to design their own
Web
site to counter the online critics, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said.

"It hasn't hurt us in terms of actual bookings, but we do have
to
respond," the mayor said Wednesday. "Because so much commerce is being
done
on the Internet now, it's something that we can't ignore."

That's just what the creators of the Web site --
www.geocities.
com/allStreet/Floor/6065/ -- intended.

None of their names appears on the site's entries, but there is a
link
to a letter addressed to Schmoke from "the former director of
building
services for the Baltimore Convention Center." The letter details why
the
author believes that he was wrongly fired and the dates he worked.

Kukucka acknowledged being the author. Although he didn't create
the
site, Kukucka contributes to it. He said a group of five or six
Web-wise
people upset with city government helped to design and operate it.
`Decide for yourself!!!'

Kukucka hopes to undermine Baltimore Convention Center business
by
highlighting the city's faults, such as widespread drug-use and
violent
crime. One line mentions that Baltimore hopes to host the 2012
Olympic
games, followed by an entry titled: "What's Wrong With Baltimore decide
for
yourself!!!"

"I'd love to go down to City Hall and picket and pass out
leaflets,"
Kukucka said. "But it gets a little old standing out there in the heat
or
cold. The Internet now can be used by someone who is wronged."

Convention officials wouldn't discuss Kukucka's situation, saying
only
that he was dismissed during his probationary period in April 1997,
11
weeks after he was hired. But they acknowledge that there is little
they
can do about his Web site.

The site has about 20 visitors daily. Many of the visits, which
are
recorded by the site, come from city officials and downtown
businesses
trying to determine what the group is saying about Baltimore, Kukucka
said.

`He's very clever'

"There are some people who have asked questions about it, and he's
very
clever in how he uses it," said Schmoke, whose mayoral portrait is the
only
picture on the site and appears above the phrase "Welcome To
Baltimore
Hon!"

Statistics that appear on the site showing the city in a bad light
were
generated by the government and reported by the news media. But the
city
disputes Kukucka's Convention Center employment claims, calling
them
exaggerations.

"It just reminds you of the downside of the Internet," Schmoke
said.
"It's something we'll all have to address."

The matter is being addressed across the nation by legislatures
and
courts, but not fast enough to keep up with the online evolution. On
the
federal level, Congress is debating measures concerning
Internet
pornography and gambling.

"Five years ago, you would not have dreamed about creating a Web site
to
make disparaging remarks about your employer," said Bitol, the
ACLU
attorney.

The mayor and other city leaders accept that online critics such
as
Kukucka and his associates are here to stay. But Schmoke said he is
willing
to discuss their concerns in the hopes of having the site removed.
`Personnel matter run amok'

"It's really a personnel matter run amok," Schmoke said. "I'm sorry
that
he feels so intensely, but any legitimate concerns he has we will look
in
to and address."

Kukucka said that the Web site's popularity is growing and
that
dismantling it might not be an option. But with the city's reputation
as
his hostage, Kukucka is willing to talk, he said. "It will stay up for
an
eternity until the mayor agrees to straighten out my problems," he
said.
"And maybe some other problems."

Pub Date: 8/07/98

Copyright The Baltimore Sun 1998

--------------------------------------------------------

We now know the five or six web-wise folks were non other than his older brother, Mark A. Kukucka.
Markee was an "expert" at ranting and raving on the internet and the Usenet after getting fired
himself from Shimadzu of Columbia, Md. Mark also can claim experience at standing in front of
buildings and ranting about Ryland homes.

OOPS!

Did I say too much?

Mark and Ryland homes coming soon to a newsgroup near you!

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