Issaquah hoodwinks Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District customers

September 13, 2013

By Peter Clark

NEW — 10:40 a.m. Sept. 13, 2013

A city of Issaquah employee registered websites in May in an apparent effort to deceive customers of the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District.

Mayor Ava Frisinger said in a letter the move directed by the administration was designed to counter a “misinformation campaign” from the district.

In a Sept. 12 press release, the district pointed to two domain names it found similar to ones it employs in business practices. Both sites, owned by Issaquah, not only resembled the established domains of the district, but also took an Internet user straight to a city webpage entitled “Our water, our city.”

“The Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District recently learned that the city of Issaquah has created at least two misleading Internet domains similar to those used by the district to redirect customers to Issaquah’s websites,” the press release reads. “This came to the district’s attention when a customer called and explained how she kept ending up on the Issaquah city website every time she typed in what she thought was the district’s website URL.”

The sites letstalkaboutourwater.com and sammplat.org bear a strong resemblance to the district’s sites letstalkaboutourwater.org and its main website sammplat.wa.org. A city employee registered both sites in May, six months after the district launched letstalkaboutourwater.org and years after sammplat.wa.org became the district’s home website.

District General Manager Jay Krauss called Issaquah’s actions “cybersquatting” and said the district’s customer service department has been dealing with questions for months. It was only in the past week that the district decided to investigate.

He particularly disapproved of sammplat.org because of its resemblance to the district’s home site of sammplat.wa.org.

“This is our general business website that the city is trying to hijack,” he said.

Krauss said he was aware of the business tactic to divert a competitor’s web traffic with domains that would derail users unfamiliar with an official URL, but said he was unaware of it in the public sphere.

“This is completely unheard of in government,” he said. “This is disrupting our ability to serve our clients. The real question to ask is who authorized this at the city?”

In response, he sent a letter Sept. 11 to Frisinger and the City Council asking that the sites be removed.

“While the city and the district may have divergent views on issues, the district struggles to understand how any web address containing the phrase ‘sammplat’ has any direct relationship to the city of Issaquah,” the letter reads. “As such, the district requests that city staff be directed to immediately take down the duplicate reserved web domains, and misleading links which redirect district customers from district web content to the city of Issaquah website.”

Frisinger responded with a letter of her own Sept. 12, giving clues about the city’s actions and saying the sites no longer lead to Issaquah’s webpage.

“I am gratified to see that both agencies are serious about minimizing customer confusion,” Frisinger’s letter to Krauss reads. “In light of the district’s misinformation campaign, administration directed a staff member to reserve these URLs. Per your request, you’ll find that both no longer direct users to the city’s website.”

City Administrator Bob Harrison has not returned calls for comment.

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Comments

10 Responses to “Issaquah hoodwinks Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District customers”

  1. This is fixable, but inexcusable on September 13th, 2013 11:04 am

    This seems like a clear case of domain-squatting, a form of online FRAUD for which the City of Issaquah should feel great shame and remorse (and, in my opinion, all those involved should suffer criminal sanctions for this).

    The Sammamish water board should have no trouble getting Issaquah to turn the domain names over to them. Sammamish folks: you need to file a claim under the “UDRP” (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy) with ICANN (see at . Issaquah clearly has no ownership interest in the names, whereas Sammamish very much does; and the use of the domains as PR vehicles to promote Issaquah’s interests over those of the actual residents of the water district is exactly the sort of bad behavior the UDRP was designed to address.

  2. Scott Hamilton of Sammamish on September 13th, 2013 12:28 pm

    I spent eight years in Sammamish City government on committees and commissions and 12 years working on political campaigns and I thought I had seen everything. This takes the cake. For the Issaquah city government to not only condone but to initiate this is beyond belief.

    Frisinger, the Chief Executive Officer of the city, chose not to seek reelection this year. Is this the legacy of her years of public service that she wants to have? Pursuing a plan to allow inadequately treated stormwater to threaten drinking water? Pursuing a hostile takeover of a sliver of the Water District that could cost taxpayers $12 million? Keeping information from its taxpayers until “outed” by the Water District? And finally condoning and initiating cybersquatting?

    Apparently the answer is Yes.

  3. Why Issaquah can’t be trusted, Part 1: Mayor admits cybersquatting Water District to redirect customers to City websites | Sammamish Comment on September 13th, 2013 12:34 pm

    [...] (The same story linked above also is in the Issaquah Press.) [...]

  4. Jeff on September 13th, 2013 1:51 pm

    Okay, so what’s this “misinformation campaign” that Mayor Frisinger refers to?

  5. jimu on September 14th, 2013 7:03 am

    I’d like to see the mayor’s letter. Is that posted anywhere online?

    Also, I’m curious about who is responsible for this and what disciplinary action will be taken against this person(s).

    Thanks to the Issaquah Press for being on top of this.

  6. Smoley on September 14th, 2013 5:11 pm

    This is just shameful and frankly I’m embarrassed to call myself a citizen of Issaquah when my local government attempts this sort of nonsense. At a minimum someone should be losing their job.

    I also hope the voters in Klahanie realize the type of people that would be governing them should they choose to be annexed by Issaquah.

  7. Deb on September 15th, 2013 6:06 pm

    Wow, Ava Frisinger’s reputation just disappeared in a (hood)wink.

    Issaquah Press: What’s the name of the employee?

  8. An answer for Deb on September 16th, 2013 12:46 pm

    Both domain names appear to have been registered by Warren Kagarise, who was until early this year a reporter for The Issaquah Press, and who is presumably now an employee of the City of Issaquah. Talk about revolving doors! Peter Clark recently assumed Kagarise’s former role at The Press, and I really hope he is not also an actual city employee masquerading as an independent journalist.

  9. karen on September 16th, 2013 3:35 pm

    So Issaquah was caught in an embarrassing LIE. And how does Mayor Frisinger respond? With an apology? Shame?

    No, she says she’s “GRATIFIED.” So she’s pleased by this incident!!!!

    Unbelievable. What slime.

  10. Ande on September 17th, 2013 12:22 pm

    Yet another reason to vote against the Klahanie annexation. These are not the people I want running my government!

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