Edits to prosecutor’s Wikipedia page traced to spokesman

Deleted were unfavorable references about Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

Associated Press

TACOMA — The spokesman for Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist has been barred from making edits to his boss’s Wikipedia page after trying to delete unfavorable references.

Spokesman James Lynch tried to make the changes in March, removing references and links to articles questioning some of Lindquist’s actions, The News Tribune reported. The articles removed included a 2015 Seattle Times editorial that called for his resignation, citing “a politicized office, a culture of vindictiveness, and prosecutorial offenses that undermine the public interest.”

Anonymous Wikipedia editors restored the page to its previous version and blocked Lynch from making additional edits. They referred to the changes as “vandalism” originating from a Pierce County government online address.

Lynch acknowledged making the changes and told The News Tribune in an email he did it because the Wikipedia page was page “heavily weighted in the negative, which provided an entirely one sided, unfair view of the office.”

Lynch also said he believed someone Lindquist’s office had prosecuted — Seattle resident John Dempsey, 48 — previously edited the page to delete flattering information about the prosecutor.

Dempsey was charged with seven felony harassment counts in 2015 and became a vocal critic of Lindquist after being acquitted. He criticized Lynch’s efforts.

“The entry presents relevant facts from the most credible sources,” Dempsey wrote to the newspaper. “Mr. Lynch earns $86,000/yr making PR for Mr. Lindquist. … People should look more closely at Lindquist’s record in public office, from sources other than his publicist.”

While anyone can edit a Wikipedia page, the site’s standards set a “neutral point of view” guideline that emphasizes reliable sources. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales set what he calls “a very simple rule that constitutes best practice: do not edit Wikipedia articles directly if you are a paid advocate.”

Lindquist, who is seeking re-election this year, is known for guarding his public image. A long-running public disclosure lawsuit involving text messages on his personal phone revealed Lindquist told a subordinate to coordinate online comments on a News Tribune story that shed unfavorable light on his office.

The text message case ended earlier this year with a judgment that ordered disclosure of the messages despite Lindquist’s efforts to prevent it. The case cost taxpayers more than $1 million in fines and attorney fees.

Lindquist declined to tell The News Tribune whether he directed or knew of Lynch’s attempt to edit the page. Instead, he forwarded the question to Lynch, who emailed another statement.

“It was my decision to make the changes, not Mark’s,” Lynch wrote. “He’s been made aware there’s an issue but is busy with other matters and isn’t dealing with this.”

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