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To read comments to this article, go here
Peter Quinn Exonerated
Monday, December 12 2005 @ 05:33 PM EST

The attack was front page "news" in the Boston Globe. The exoneration of Peter Quinn, whose only "sin" was wanting to use OpenDocument Format instead of Microsoft's solution, is now complete. The bogus investigation is over, and they couldn't find any dirt. All trips were, in fact, authorized by his supervisor, Eric Kriss, Kriss has confirmed. Further, Kriss told Quinn he didn't have to do the paperwork, because he thought that requirement no longer applied. Quinn is innocent.

Of course, the Boston Globe doesn't put the correction on page one. So I will. And they run it on a Saturday, which I expect means the lowest readership of the week. So this story on Groklaw will stay at the top of all other stories through Tuesday, to make sure everyone sees that this decent and honorable man was dragged through the mud for nothing.

How do you give a man back his good name?

Can you imagine if bloggers had done what the Boston Globe did to Peter Quinn? There'd be editorials and news stories and editorials pretending to be news stories all over the place. After all, the Globe printed the accusations without reaching Kriss. It was Thanksgiving, and he wasn't immediately reachable. Had they waited, they'd have known that what Quinn told the Globe was true: Kriss approved the trips. Then they'd have known there was no story, and Quinn's reputation would have remained unsullied. Attack of the Journos. With a Special Interest Group overtone.

Now, here on Groklaw, I'd never print something like that. I'd wait until I could reach Kriss. If someone else beat me to the punch, I wouldn't care. Ethics matter, because that is what you offer as a blogger or citizen journalist: that special interests can't influence you, that your voice is authentically your own, and that no one can make you do what the Boston Globe did to Peter Quinn.

The story is in the local news section, "Review backs trips by technology chief". Here's a snip:

The Romney administration's chief technology officer did not violate conflict-of-interest standards or other rules when he took 12 out-of-state trips to attend conferences during the past year without obtaining the written approval of his boss, according to a review by the governor's budget chief.

Peter J. Quinn, director of the state's Informational Technology Division and its chief information officer, received verbal authorization for all the trips from Eric A. Kriss, who then was secretary of administration and finance, Eric Fehrnstrom, director of communications for Romney, said yesterday.

Of course they don't just do the human thing and apologize. They could get sued, I supppose, if they did. Kriss's replacement, Thomas Trimarco, is sending out a memo to all that these rules are so very, very vital and need to be followed, blah blah. How funny people are. It's very hard to acknowledge an error and just say you're sorry. Someone tried to stab Quinn in the back, to try to get a leg up in the ODF battle by character assassination. Unfortunately for the Dark Side, he's an honest man, who, it turns out, paid out his own money sometimes without even seeking reimbursement. So, once again, the Dark Side merely succeeded in making itself look bad.

The Dark Side thinks that if they lift up an Open Source rock, they'll find things crawling around. But it's not that way. FOSS is built on an ethical framework, and a practical one too. It's all done in the open, so there's no way to give a home to creepy crawly things. So, they'd best find a better way to fight fair and square.

Let me stress, for the fact-challenged, that ODF is not FOSS. It's available to be used by both FOSS and proprietary software. But I am writing in a bigger frame now, about Dark Side tactics. And character assassination is what they seem to prefer to use as a weapon. The despicable attacks on Linus, on the Linux development process, on Groklaw. I see a pattern. And Linus keeps on truckin', and so does Linux, and so do I. Groklaw continues to grow. In fact, every time Groklaw is attacked, we get new members. Every time. People aren't stupid. They can smell viciousness, and they don't like it.

The Globe reporter does an honorable job of clearing the air, in that he doesn't pretend that they got it right originally, but instead tells the entire story. In that, I commend him. And it's not his fault if it's not on page one. He doesn't get to decide that.

Andy Updegrove would like some answers from The Boston Globe. He has written to the Globe's ombudsman, asking the following questions:

1. Did Mr. Kurkjian decide to look into Mr. Quinn's travel on his own, or was this suggested to him by someone?

2. If there was a source, who was that source?

3. If there was a source, was that source inside the Massachusetts government or outside?

4. If the source was inside the government, were the disclosures made to Mr. Kurkjian made in violation of any State policy?

5. If the source was outside the government, did the source have any affiliations that would lead him or her to have an interest in the disparagement of Mr. Quinn?

6. Why did Mr. Kurkjian not wait to run the story until he was able to reach Mr. Kriss, who Mr. Kurkjian knew could confirm or disprove the basis for the story?

7. Was this story, and the investigation behind it, in compliance with the Globe's policies?

I am particularly fascinated by questions 2, 4, and 5. Number 6 is, of course, the question I raised immediately when the Globe's attack piece first hit their front page. You can read the entire letter on Updegrove's blog.

The best way to deal with dirty tricks is to shine the light on them. The Dark Side likes to hide in the shadows. I'm not saying there were dirty tricks here, though it smells plenty funny. An investigation would be nice, to find out. Sooner or later, all the facts will leak out, you know, anyway. So the Boston Globe might as well be straightforward and forthcoming and let us know what happened in this incident, most particularly who started the ball rolling. We'll be able to figure the why of it from there.


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