When the Baltimore Convention Center dismissed Douglas Kukucka
director of building services last year, the 35-year-old engineer did
any city employee who feels wronged might do: he wrote letters and
elected officials, including the mayor.
But dissatisfied with the lack of response from city officials,
turned to the weapon of the '90s, the Internet. He and his friends
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
screams a third.
The site has garnered the attention of Baltimore officials -- which
what Kukucka wanted.
Kukucka, who declined to identify his associates, contends that he
victim of discrimination, sexual harassment and an unreasonable
from convention officials and that he was wrongly blamed for
caused by a drunken employee, illiterate workers, and failures in
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
Internet to attack anyone from employers to teachers. And courts
supporting the online critics, saying the Internet is protected by the
free speech rights given to books, newspapers and pamphlets.
In April, a northeast Ohio school district agreed to settle a
lawsuit by paying $30,000 to a high school student it had suspended
creating a Web site describing his band teacher as a chubby man with a
haircut who played favorites.
A federal judge in Seattle ruled earlier this year that a consumer
the right to post slurs and personal information about executives
credit card company after the man became involved in a dispute
credit report. The Web site organizer called the executives "scumbags,
asses and jerks" and posted their home addresses, phone numbers and maps
`More people more quickly'
"You have the right to create a Web site just as much as you
right to make up a pamphlet and pass it out," said Solange Bitol, a
Amendment attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in
"What makes people nervous is that your criticism can reach more
Baltimore Convention Center officials are trying to design their own
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
respond," the mayor said Wednesday. "Because so much commerce is being
on the Internet now, it's something that we can't ignore."
That's just what the creators of the Web site --
com/allStreet/Floor/6065/ -- intended.
None of their names appears on the site's entries, but there is a
to a letter addressed to Schmoke from "the former director of
services for the Baltimore Convention Center." The letter details why
author believes that he was wrongly fired and the dates he worked.
Kukucka acknowledged being the author. Although he didn't create
site, Kukucka contributes to it. He said a group of five or six
people upset with city government helped to design and operate it.
`Decide for yourself!!!'
Kukucka hopes to undermine Baltimore Convention Center business
highlighting the city's faults, such as widespread drug-use and
crime. One line mentions that Baltimore hopes to host the 2012
games, followed by an entry titled: "What's Wrong With Baltimore decide
"I'd love to go down to City Hall and picket and pass out
Kukucka said. "But it gets a little old standing out there in the heat
cold. The Internet now can be used by someone who is wronged."
Convention officials wouldn't discuss Kukucka's situation, saying
that he was dismissed during his probationary period in April 1997,
weeks after he was hired. But they acknowledge that there is little
can do about his Web site.
The site has about 20 visitors daily. Many of the visits, which
recorded by the site, come from city officials and downtown
trying to determine what the group is saying about Baltimore, Kukucka
`He's very clever'
"There are some people who have asked questions about it, and he's
clever in how he uses it," said Schmoke, whose mayoral portrait is the
picture on the site and appears above the phrase "Welcome To
Statistics that appear on the site showing the city in a bad light
generated by the government and reported by the news media. But the
disputes Kukucka's Convention Center employment claims, calling
"It just reminds you of the downside of the Internet," Schmoke
"It's something we'll all have to address."
The matter is being addressed across the nation by legislatures
courts, but not fast enough to keep up with the online evolution. On
federal level, Congress is debating measures concerning
pornography and gambling.
"Five years ago, you would not have dreamed about creating a Web site
make disparaging remarks about your employer," said Bitol, the
The mayor and other city leaders accept that online critics such
Kukucka and his associates are here to stay. But Schmoke said he is
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
he feels so intensely, but any legitimate concerns he has we will look
to and address."
Kukucka said that the Web site's popularity is growing and
dismantling it might not be an option. But with the city's reputation
his hostage, Kukucka is willing to talk, he said. "It will stay up for
eternity until the mayor agrees to straighten out my problems," he
"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.
Did I say too much?
Mark and Ryland homes coming soon to a newsgroup near you!