On the cover North Coast Journal

September 1, 2005


CNPA logo2005 CNPA Award
Investigative Reporting - First Place

On the cover: Richard Salzman shakes hands with Deputy DA Worth Dikeman
at a Dikeman press conference earlier this year. Photo by Hank Sims.



For at least the last 10 months, controversial political figure Richard Salzman has authored numerous letters to local newspapers under fake names, the Journal has learned. The letters, which were signed "R. Trent Williams" and "Dick Wyatt," were published in the Journal and the Eureka Reporter, the only two local newspapers with extensive online archives. It is believed that they also appeared in other publications.

Nearly every hot political topic to hit Humboldt County in the past year is addressed in the letters -- from the aftermath of the failed recall attempt on District Attorney Paul Gallegos (during which Salzman was the DA's campaign chairman) to the battle over the new county general plan, Eureka City Councilman Chris Kerrigan's reelection, the threatened boycott of Arcata and the backlash against Salzman himself.

Acting on a complaint from Fortuna resident Rhonda Meehan (see sidebar), the Journal contacted Salzman Friday afternoon to ask if he had, in fact, written letters to the editor using phony names. He said that he had not.

"The only letters I write are the ones you see from me," he said. He added that he had never heard of "R. Trent Williams," but that Fortuna resident Dick Wyatt was a political colleague.

In a follow-up telephone conversation that evening, Salzman at first sought to dismiss Meehan's claims, saying that Meehan was "clearly a hard-core Dikeman supporter." (Deputy District Attorney Worth Dikeman has announced that he will challenge Gallegos for the post of district attorney next year).

However, on Monday, after being presented with hard evidence collected by the Journal that supported Meehan's allegations, Salzman recanted and issued a partial confession.

In a statement delivered to the Journal Monday afternoon, Salzman confessed that he had submitted letters to the editor under a "pen name."

"The use of pen names has been a common practice throughout history," Salzman wrote. "It is important to know I stand behind the substance of everything contained in all the letters I submitted."

Salzman's change of story came after he met with the Journal in our offices Monday morning to review the information supporting Meehan's case that this newspaper collected Friday afternoon and over the weekend.

After reading Meehan's complaint, the Journal looked closely at identifying information in e-mails from Salzman stored on our computers, then at similar information in the single e-mail from "R. Trent Williams" that we retained. We also looked at the e-mail purportedly sent by "Dick Wyatt" that Meehan referenced, which we received but did not publish.

A careful read of the e-mail "headers" -- addressing information at the top of the message that most e-mail programs hide -- showed that both the "Williams" and the "Wyatt" e-mails contained the IP address of the computer that sent them (see sidebar). These addresses matched addresses used by Salzman in the same period.

The "Williams" e-mail (sent May 23, 2005) and the "Wyatt" e-mail (July 9, 2005) both originated from a computer using the IP address All the e-mails that we had received from Salzman between March 3, 2005, and July 5, 2005, were from a computer using the same address. (The first e-mail we received from Salzman after the "Wyatt" e-mail was dated early August, by which time his IP lease of that address had apparently expired.)

Over the weekend, the Arcata Eye provided this newspaper with copies of e-mails it had received from "Williams" -- one dated Dec. 16, 2004, and one dated Aug. 4, 2005. The Journal compared the IP address information contained in the Eye e-mails to the same information in e-mails known to be sent by Salzman at those times. In both cases, the IP addresses matched. In mid-December, both Salzman and "Williams" were using IP address; in early August, both were using The combination of these three dates, during which Salzman and "Williams" were using the same IP address, was conclusive.

In addition, the Journal discovered that Salzman didn't employ much creativity in devising what appears to be his principal pseudonym.

Though the Williams letters were signed "R. Trent Williams," e-mails sent from "Williams'" e-mail address appeared in inboxes as coming from "Rick William." Salzman's full name is Richard William Salzman.

Reached Tuesday morning, Salzman declined to comment on the matter any further. He said that he would not provide a list of false names he has used.

In recent months, the Journal has received two letters from a person claiming to be a Eureka resident named "R. Johnson," one of which was published in July (the other, sent a month earlier, was published in the McKinleyville Press). Upon further examination, the letters have proven to be false.

Even though the "R. Johnson" letters were sent to the Journal electronically, they cannot be definitively tied to Salzman or any other person as they contain no IP address information. However, they both take stances similar to ones Salzman has taken in the past: One thanks former Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen for his service to the county, the other excoriates the Humboldt Taxpayer's League and auto dealer Harvey Harper.

The "R. Johnson" letters give the address of a Eureka home that turns out to belong to 93-year-old Ruth Johnson. On Monday afternoon, the Journal reached Ruth Johnson's caregiver, who said that there was no way that she could have written the letters.

"She can't even sign her own name," the caregiver replied.

Meehan, who is the sister of Fortuna City Councilmember Debi August -- a vocal Gallegos opponent and former target of a lawsuit prosecuted by the DA's office -- said Tuesday that she sent her fax to local newspapers after the real Dick Wyatt, a Fortuna resident, apologized to August for the content of the Salzman letter that appeared under his name.

According to Meehan, Wyatt said that Salzman had asked to write a letter to the editor using his name. He later regretted that it had made reference to August's "mendacious behavior," Meehan said. (Wyatt could not be reached for this story. August declined to comment.)

Meehan said that she just took a guess about the "R. Trent Williams" letters.

"That one -- I don't know," she said. "Both letters just sounded so much alike that I threw that one in there." l

-- Staff writer Helen Sanderson contributed to this report.

-- -- --

The story of 'Jan Johnson'

Recent editions of the Humboldt Advocate, a small weekly newspaper published in Arcata, have dropped dark hints about a vast conspiracy among other newspapers. Many supposedly "independent" local newspapers, it is suggested, are in fact owned by a single, shadowy "neo-conservative" businessman who wishes to bend the public will to his ends.

The hints come both from the pen of Advocate editor/publisher Shawn Warford and from one "Luke Morris," an alleged resident of Eureka whose letter praising Warford's previous editorials on the subject appeared in the Aug. 10 issue.

There is no Luke Morris listed in the local phone book, nor is there any such person registered to vote in Humboldt County. When challenged on this point, Warford -- who used to work for the Arcata Eye and the North Coast Journal -- wrote that Morris' letter was delivered by hand to the Advocate offices, slipped under the door with no name or address given. Warford said that he decided to print the letter anyway, contrary to his own stated policy.

A mystery. But for Kevin Hoover, editor/publisher of the Eye, there was something familiar about both the "Luke Morris" letter and Warford's own frequent invocations of media corruption and conspiracy. It was all contained in a series of anonymous e-mails he and other members of the Eye staff began receiving last year -- e-mails that, over the course of a few months, turned from bizarrely amusing to deeply abusive and frightening.

Last fall, Hoover received a series of e-mails from someone who identified herself as "Jan Johnson," an Arcata woman. The first few letters "Johnson" sent to Hoover asked him to investigate Johnson's contention that the North Coast Journal is secretly owned by Rob Arkley, a Eureka financier and well-known donor to high-profile Republican causes. (Editor's note: It is not.)

After several such e-mails, and another suggesting a freelance writer that the Eye might consider hiring, Hoover asked "Jan Johnson" to provide a phone number in future letters. She declined.

The e-mails did not cease, but they started to develop a threatening edge. Eye staff members started receiving letters from "Jan Johnson" through their personal e-mail addresses. One such letter was sent to the Eye's advertising manager, Terrence McNally.

"You can run, but you can't hide," the letter said. "We have our sources at The Alibi. You're on our list for crimes against humanity. We intend to bring you to justice. December 9 will be just the beginning."

In the spring, the Eureka Reporter (which is owned by Rob Arkley) printed a letter from Jan Johnson that praised the Reporter and complained about the "awful Arcata Eye." (Upon learning that the letter was fake, Reporter editor Glenn Franco Simmons apologized for printing it.)

The letters abated for a time, but on March 12, Hoover received another "Jan Johnson" letter that caused him to take action.

It began fairly innocently, but it swiftly degenerated into loathing and veiled threats. The letter stated that the Eye, the North Coast Journal and the McKinleyville Press were all financed by Robin Arkley, Sr. (Rob Arkley's father).

It then referenced an incident from a few years back, when Hoover was suddenly (and apparently randomly) attacked and beaten by a group of men on New Year's Eve.

"Wouldn't it be interesting if those guys ran into you again?" the letter asked. "They know where you work and live and the car that you drive... Am I getting warmer? Yes, we are on to you."

Hoover notified the police, then got a computer-savvy friend to compare the IP address information in the "Jan Johnson" e-mails with other e-mails stored on his computer. The friend found a hit: At least some of the Johnson e-mails were sent from an IP address recently used by the Arcata Chamber of Commerce.

The e-mails that appeared to come from the Chamber's offices were sent on a Saturday. At the time, there was only one employee working at the office on a Saturday: Shawn Warford, who was a part-timer for the Chamber, in addition to running the Advocate.

Arcata Chamber of Commerce President Ray Geary said that while he could not discuss personnel matters in detail, he did say that Warford was told that "his services were no longer required" shortly after he spoke with Hoover and his staff spoke with the Arcata Police Department.

Geary offered advice to any local business that might find itself in similar circumstances.

"If situations like these are occurring, there needs to be in-depth follow-up and follow-through with those offended, in cooperation with appropriate authorities," he said.

Capt. Tom Chapman of the Arcata Police Department confirmed Tuesday that there had been an investigation of the matter. Though he said that "we're fairly certain we know who it is," the department could not gather enough definitive proof to bring a case against the suspect. (Chapman declined to identify the suspect by name.)

Hoover said Sunday that after Warford left the Chamber's employment, the Jan Johnson e-mails stopped. He said Sunday that he didn't wish to write about the matter for fear that it would rekindle the e-mailer's abuse.

"I was just glad the harassment of my staff and me was over with," he said.

Warford did not return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment for this story.

Rhonda Meehan's letter

Letters from "R. Trent Williams" printed by the Journal

The story of 'Jan Johnson'

Glossary of Terms


Rhonda Meehan's letter


Will the real R. Trent Williams, Dick Wyatt and all the other Debi August and Palco bashers please stand up?

Oh, just as I thought! Could that be you, Richard Salzman?

The DA's chief financial guru must be getting really desperate. I have factual information that Richard Salzman, Paul Gallegos' fundraiser, better known as "Friends of Gallegos" has been writing letters to the editor (signing someone else's name) in support of Paul Gallegos and Tim Stoen and bashing Debi August and Pacific Lumber.

It's pretty sad when someone like Richard Salzman doesn't have the guts to sign his own name to his own letters, but instead puts innocent people in the position of being sued for libel. If you have to write a letter to the editor and then sign someone else's name to it (with permission or not) in order to try to convince the public that there are people out there that believe the DA's office was right in doing what it did, you have a serious problem.

Each of the above letter-writers needs to be contacted and asked if they in fact wrote those letters. And why didn't the Times-Standard and other newspapers verify the authors of those letters?

Rhonda Meehan, Fortuna


Letters from
"R. Trent Williams"
printed by the Journal

Hiding behind lawyers
Nov. 4, 2004


So it looks like Mr. Salzman was right all along. I don't expect the North Coast Journal will be running any apologies for its editorial that criticized him for the (private) e-mails he sent out which warned against exactly the type of tactics that were ultimately employed by Rex Bohn's supporters. Of course, since they hide behind a Sacramento lawyer, we will never know each of the names of the people who funded the last minute attack ads against Councilman Chris Kerrigan, but it is rumored that at least one of the funders owns a local paper and wants to bring big box stores to Eureka. It is more than a little bit absurd for this secret group to be blaming Chris for the county's economic ills. First of all, Chris was in the minority on votes like the retail ordinance, so the policy he supported didn't prevail. Furthermore, if it had prevailed it would have only served to protect small businesses that the attack ads claim to be concerned about losing. The final irony is that their ad featured Moon's Play and Learn, which did not go out of business but rather expanded to a larger location in the revitalized downtown that Chris has worked so hard to support.

R. Trent Williams, Eureka

Defending Salzman
Feb. 24, 2005


Mike Harvey is the spokesman for HELP, which is funded by Rob Arkley. Arkley threatened a campaign to smear Salzman's name in the press and his lapdog, Mike Harvey, has started to do so. So Salzman is responsible for the destruction of the fishing industry? Wow.

R. Trent Williams, Eureka

 On Gallegos' critics
March 24, 2005


Rose Welsh, who produced Jill Geist's ad campaign and is infamous for her conspiracy theories and for co-hosting a radio show with fellow nut-case Stephen Lewis, is now preaching about how the DA should be working harder ("Mailbox," March 17). Pay no mind to the fact that Paul has won every case he has tried since taking office. That would be seven more cases that [former DA] Terry [Farmer] tried in the last 10 years combined.

Let's not forget that during the recall, Rose was one of the people running around to the media waving e-mails stolen from the DA's office during the whole Flanigan scandal. EPD investigations were inconclusive and no charges were ever brought, but it still leaves a bad odor on the woman. At the end of the day, as with the article in general ("One year later," March 3), what we learn is that Paul's critics are still critical of him. Sixty-one percent of the voters chose to keep him in office.

His critics should give it a rest.

R. Trent Williams, Eureka

Arcata politics
June 2, 2005


I keep hearing how Arcata's political positions hurt local businesses and that city's economy. That's interesting spin, as the commercial vacancy rate is at a 20-year low, new commercial buildings on previously empty lots have been immediately rented and property values in Arcata are about $100,000 greater than in Humboldt County in general. On top of all that, sales taxes collected are up 12.4 percent over last year, which is 50 percent higher than the increase in Eureka. The facts simply don't prove the critics out.

Arcata's long history of progressive values and liberal politics seems, in fact, to be good for business. For every right-wing Fortuna resident who writes a letter saying they now won't be shopping in Arcata (as if they ever did) there are 10 people outside the Arcata city limits who enjoy going into that town to do their shopping.

Local businesses in Arcata would be well advised to stick to business and leave politics to the elected officials. If they think that they are going to be punished by a misguided few for the actions of their city government, for which they are not responsible, wait until they feel the economic effects of taking the political position of opposing the will of the voters and their elected representatives. I'm sure they will find that most Arcata shoppers like Arcata's politics and don't appreciate the strong-arm tactics the Arcata Chamber of Commerce is currently demonstrating.

R. Trent Williams, Eureka


Glossary of terms

Internet Protocol address:

A unique number assigned to each computer connected to the Internet at any time. IP addresses are used to route information -- e-mails, web pages, streaming audio, etc. -- from one machine to another. They are written as a group of four numbers, ranging from zero to 255, with a period or dash between each (for example: "").

There are over 4.2 billion possible IP addresses.

Dynamic addressing:

A system whereby Internet service providers (ISPs) assign a temporary IP address to a computer at the moment it logs on to the Internet.

In the early days of computing, each machine on the Internet had a permanent (or "static") IP address. As the network expanded, it became clear that the number of free addresses would eventually run out.

ISPs began adopting a provisional solution to this problem -- dynamic addressing -- in the early 1990s. Under dynamic addressing, users are provided with an IP address to use for a set period of time. When a user logs off, the IP address he was using may be passed on to another of the ISP's customers. Almost all home Internet accounts use dynamic addressing.

A new system, known as "IPv6," is slowly coming into play. Once IPv6 is fully adopted, the number of possible IP addresses will increase exponentially, eliminating the need for dynamic addressing.

IP leases:

Though dynamic addressing allows IP addresses to pass from user to user, a computer may keep the same address for a set period of time (ranging from days to weeks to months, depending on the ISP) no matter how often the user logs on to and off of the network. This period of time is known as a "lease."




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