Bogus hotline message yanked
By BETTY ADAMS Staff Writer ©Copyright 1998 Guy Gannett Communications
AUGUSTA - The executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association had a rude awakening Friday when he learned the agency hotline was broadcasting an unauthorized message urging callers to vote yes in Tuesday's referendum.
A 6:30 a.m. phone call from Bill Green, a sportscaster for WCSH-TV, informed him that the hotline message had been altered.
"I immediately called the hotline and was dumbfounded," said Meyers. "This is an act of political sabotage."
He said the bogus message included derogatory comments about gays.
"In no way did those comments represent in any way shape or form the opinion of the Maine Snowmobile Association," Meyers stated emphatically.
Meyers asked a director who lived near the office to unplug the machine which answers the toll-free hotline number, and he requested an investigation by authorities.
"Normally we get 200 to 250 calls a day on this line," said Meyers. The message, usually offering trail conditions and upcoming events of interest to snowmobilers, said the MSA backed a "yes" vote.
Meyers said the association receives numerous telephone inquiries on that line. "After about 20,000 or 30,000 calls, the machines blow up," Meyers said. "We just got a new machine it's been working real good."
He said the agency had kept the default code. "Apparently you can access these machines remotely," said Meyers.
The hotline will remain shut down until Monday. "We have talked to the attorney general office's and they're going to investigate," he said.
While the hotline is halted, Meyers said people can use the Internet to call up the association's web site at www.mesnow.com for an update on trail conditions.
He believes the message was altered some time between 6:30 p.m. Thursday night and early Friday morning.
"It's just a shame that anyone would do something like this. It's stupid.
The Augusta-based Maine Snowmobile Association is an all-volunteer group representing 280 snowmobile clubs and approximately 30,000 people.
The group's goals are to encourage responsible use of the trail system, represent snowmobilers before the Legislature and to work with government agencies to provide better and safer snowmobiling.
"We've not run into this before," said Meyers. "This is a once in a lifetime occurrence."
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