Online issue emerges in Nevada County sheriff’s race
May 17, 2018
Bill Smethers' campaign for sheriff made a mistake when it submitted his candidate statement for the voter information guide.
It listed the wrong website.
The campaign had bought a handful of domains, all variations of http://www.smethersforsheriff.com. But it listed one it didn't have — http://www.billsmethersforsheriff.com — when it delivered the information to the Nevada County elections office.
When Smethers' team realized its error, it tried to buy the incorrectly listed website. It couldn't. Records show that Joey Jordan, formerly a paid consultant for John Foster's campaign for sheriff and now a volunteer with it, already owned the name.
Contacted this week, Jordan said she didn't own it.
"It's just kind of weird," Smethers said. "We have tried to stay above board in everything."
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The website lists nothing about any local candidate. It instead displays information about GoDaddy, an internet domain registrar and web hosting company.
The top two vote-getters will advance to the November election, if a candidate fails to get 50 percent plus one vote on June 5.
Candidate statements of qualifications were filed when candidates declared their candidacy — Feb. 12 to March 9 for most races, and until March 14 for races in which the incumbent didn't run.
A 10-day examination period began after those deadlines. During that time the public could view candidate statements, an elections official said.
Online records show that someone using the name Joey Jordan on April 9 registered http://www.billsmethersforsheriff.com, the website listed incorrectly by Smethers' campaign, through GoDaddy.
"On Tuesday morning I was informed by (The Union Staff Writer) Alan Riquelmy that I was the listed owner of a domain name that appears in a ballot statement," Jordan states in an email. "I Googled: 'How do you find out who owns a domain name?' and was able to verify that I was listed as the owner of the domain. I contacted GoDaddy and requested they remove my name as the owner, which I believe they have done."
Jordan declined further comment.
A Thursday search showed Jordan remains the owner of the domain name.
Sheriff's Capt. Jeff Pettitt, who Smethers has said would serve as his undersheriff if elected, said the campaign tried to correct the error in the voter information guide statement. When it realized it couldn't, they tried to buy the domain name.
"So we tried to go out and buy it, but somebody had already purchased it," Pettitt said.
Pettitt said Smethers' campaign has made no contact with Foster about the purchase. He doesn't know if the incorrect listing in the voter guide has had any effect.
"Our website is getting tons of hits," Pettitt said. "It doesn't appear to be an issue for us at this point."
According to Nick Fuller, public relations with GoDaddy, the domain http://www.billsmethersforsheriff.com is active. That active status means someone with access to firstname.lastname@example.org, the email linked to Jordan's name in GoDaddy records, verified contact information listed for the website within 15 days of April 9.
Fuller emphasized that information is public, accessible through online searches and a help page.
The question remains about whether someone committed a crime by improperly using Jordan's personal information when buying a domain.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said a crime could exist if someone misrepresents another person's name in a business transaction. That's particularly true if the misrepresentation is done with ill will or an intent to portray the other person negatively.
"It could be identity theft," Walsh said.
Merely purchasing a website that contains another person's name isn't a crime, he said.
Smethers said he knows of no complaint that's been made to the Sheriff's Office about someone misrepresenting Jordan's name.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.