(Record-Eagle, The (Traverse City, MI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 01--TRAVERSE CITY -- Local caller IDs lit up with the digits 922-4903 as residents fielded yet another automated campaign message ahead of the Aug. 5 primary election.
But some irked voters -- who noticed the incoming call came from a local number -- decided to hit redial Thursday night and Friday morning, only to hear officials from Traverse City's Clinch Park Marina pick up the phone on the other end.
The automated recording, said people who fielded the call, included a message supporting Wayne Schmidt, a Republican candidate for the 37th Senate District.
"It was a woman's voice with a pro-Wayne Schmidt ad of some sort," said city Parks and Recreation Superintendent Lauren Vaughn, who received one of the robocalls on Thursday evening. "At the very end it said 'If you're a supporter of Wayne Schmidt, press 1, or if you're still undecided, press 2.' I didn't press either."
Schmidt on Friday said his campaign was not behind the calls and did not use any city offices or equipment.
"I don't mean to sound incredulous, but I wouldn't have anything set up in a public office or a marina," Schmidt said.
Schmidt said he had no idea where the calls originated or who was behind them.
Officials with the campaign of Schmidt's opponent in the Republican primary race, Greg MacMaster, also said their camp did not orchestrate the calls.
City officials could not explain what was going on with the robocalls Friday morning, but Treasurer Bill Twietmeyer said they did not originate with marina phone lines.
Twietmeyer said officials believe the responsible party was "spoofing" the marina number -- a term used to describe the practice of making an incorrect phone number pop-up on a caller ID.
The suspected "spoof" quickly became something of a bad joke for Marina employees. Marina phones -- which are managed by Grand Traverse County -- rang off the hook Thursday night as people redialed the robocall's source number.
"Between 8 (p.m.) and 8:30 (p.m.) it got to the point where it was just constant call backs to the marina," Twietmeyer said. "They had to take the phone off the hook."
Randy Filkins, Grand Traverse County's telecommunications coordinator, said county officials reported the problem to AT&T but had not heard back from the phone service provider by this afternoon.
"What I'm saying is, we're just starting on this," Filkins said. "We haven't really gotten that deep yet."
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