Political Climate with Mark Simon: Ex council candidate uses false Facebook identity to criticize opponent

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate

There’s no other way to describe it, but bizarre.

For the past several weeks, Christina Umhofer, former candidate for the Redwood City Council, has been using the false identity “Ann Marie” on Facebook to post harsh criticisms of Councilwoman Giselle Hale. At the same time, Umhofer has been using her own Facebook identity to criticize Hale. Sometimes, Umhofer commented on the postings put up under the fake name.

While the Umhofer posts have been relatively temperate – the key word there is relatively – the Ann Marie posts have been almost relentless, including criticizing Hale for a post praising hometown star New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman for winning the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award. The Ann Marie post referenced that “real” Redwood City residents have long been proud of Edelman.

When confronted by her actions online, Umhofer, in a post on Facebook yesterday, confirmed she had been using a fake Facebook identity.

Today, she posted another confirmation on her 2018 City Council campaign Facebook page that reads:

“Mark Simon of Climate Magazine reached out to me via my personal email yesterday indicating he will be publishing a column later today about a Facebook alias, “Ann Marie”, that I recently used while commenting on Councilmember Hale’s Facebook page. Councilmember Hale blocked me from her campaign page last year and now that she is a public official, has recently unblocked me upon request.

“In the interim,” Umhofer’s post today continued, “I had used an alias “Ann Marie” to respond to some of her recent posts on her Facebook page and I failed to explicitly state it was me. Once my name was unblocked by Councilmember Hale, I resumed using my Christina Umhofer profile to comment on her page; however, there was a brief time that I used both names when commenting, which was an oversight on my part for not paying attention to which account I was logged into. I own it, and I apologize for it.”

I did, indeed, reach out to Umhofer via email yesterday with a series of questions about her use of the Ann Marie identity. I asked her to reply to the questions by 2 p.m. She has not done so. The questions asked for much more detail than Umhofer provided in her posting today, including an explanation of why she was so harshly criticizing Hale.

In an interview today with Political Climate, Hale said that she had blocked a number of people, including Umhofer, during the campaign and that she lifted the block after she was elected to the council.

“In 2018, a record number of women were running for office, and many of these women experienced harassment – more than male candidates. The unfortunate reality is that I faced the same thing,” Hale said.

But once she was elected, her public communications are subject to public-access laws, she unblocked everyone, Hale said.

When she received notification from Umhofer that she continued to be blocked, Hale took the step of specifically ensuring Umhofer could post comments.

But blocked or unblocked, Umhofer “was always able to reach me by email or phone,” Hale said, “She didn’t need to create a false identity.”

Several times, in Facebook responses to postings under the name Ann Marie, Hale offered to meet with her over coffee to discuss the concerns being expressed. It’s “surprising and a little sad that a person I had invited to coffee turned out not to be a real person.”

Hale said the postings were meant as “intimidation and harassment … intended to bully someone” and that shouldn’t be a part of the public debate.

“I feel we had a robust public debate (during the campaign). The public spoke. The public voted,” Hale said. “We need to focus on the issues facing the community.” She said she would rather be talking about the issues facing the city, rather than this matter.

“I’m more than willing to work with people with differing opinions,” Hale said.

As for Umhofer’s post today, there are gaps in the explanation she offers, starting with using Ann Marie as an “alias.”

The Ann Marie Facebook page contained information that appeared intended to mislead and to convey that this was a distinct individual. That included a listing that she recently took a position at “Beauty company” and that she was married in 2009. Those details contradict information that had been posted on Umhofer’s personal Facebook page, which, incidentally, appears to have been deleted.

Umhofer also used both her real Facebook identity and Ann Marie at the same time on several occasions. In her posting today, she described that as an “oversight” but there are several instances of Umhofer actively “liking” or commenting on a posting by Ann Marie. In one instance, Umhofer asked Hale why an Ann Marie posting had been deleted.

Ultimately, the usage of both names at the same time prompted other posters to confront Umhofer. Some of them cited a photo of a leaping dog that appeared on both the Ann Marie and Umhofer Facebook pages. One poster noted that Umhofer appeared to be struggling to keep her two identities straight.

Umhofer’s posting today does not address why she has been such a harsh critic of Hale, either as herself or Ann Marie. Umhofer was an opponent of Hale’s in last year’s city council race. Hale received the most votes in a seven-candidate race for three seats. Umhofer finished fifth, nearly 3,300 votes behind Hale and more than 1,500 votes behind third-place-winner Diana Reddy.

Roughly since the beginning of the year, Hale has been posting consistently on city-related issues on an official Facebook page titled Councilwoman Giselle Hale and on a page named “I Love Redwood City” that she has been using for several months.

If there are any consistent themes to Umhofer’s postings, it is that they appear to call into question Hale’s legitimacy as a representative of the city. The postings attempt to label Hale as a hypocritical newcomer who doesn’t understand local issues or have genuine local roots.

In a posting on the issue of providing “middle housing” to protect the presence of the middle class in Redwood City, a position Hale took at her campaign kickoff, Umhofer, posting as Ann Marie, demanded to know Hale’s solution, and then criticized her for not providing details. In the string of comments, Umhofer also weighed in from the account using her real name, crediting herself for a project that met the definition of “middle housing.”

In a posting on Hale’s I Love RWC page about the Redwood City Education Foundation, a community-supported nonprofit that provides financial support to local schools, Ann Marie commented: “Giselle, we both know that RCEF is a sham. When you are sitting at one of the Board meetings, why not tell the rest of the Board to stop using the Latino-based students for RCEF’s propaganda. RCEF’s ‘leadership’ needs to stay in their lane and concern themselves with the children of our district and not promising unbridled development.”

In a posting on efforts by local school districts to build teacher housing, Ann Marie said, “Giselle, what you post, what you say, and who you received money from speak different stories.” Donations Hale received show “you compromised your decision-making.”

In an I Love RWC posting about $500 million for housing from a fund spearheaded by the Redwood City-based Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Ann Marie dismissed the money as a “dismal number.” Umhofer subsequently demanded to know why the Ann Marie post had been deleted and did not disclose that she was posting under the name Ann Marie.

Most, if not all, of the Ann Marie postings have been deleted, apparently by Umhofer. While the Ann Marie page still can be found, all information and photos on it have been deleted.

Contact Mark Simon at Mark.simon24@yahoo.com.

*The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Online.

25 Comments

  1. Mark, “bizarre” doesn’t come close to describing it.

    Umhofer’s personal page has not been deleted – she has blocked you. I know because she did the same to me earlier today when I posted a couple of comments on her Campaign page. Those comments have, BTW, been deleted. All that remains is supportive comments from her Say What friends. It is interesting to note that for a time earlier today she was “Rose Cella”.

    I suspect you will not be able to see any comments by her on the Say What page. She is not the first Say What member to block me. In fact, there are several of us who have been blocked. We’re thinking of getting T-Shirts. We already have a srcret handshake.

  2. Mark, Mrs. Umhofer also uses a page as Rose Cella, same picture and her About, she forgot to erase – “pronounced Ann Marie”. I do have screenshots on a totally unrelated comment she did with both names under a picture that shows Lunar year. When I posted a comment on her announcement that she was contacted by you, she blocked me. It is concerning that an individual post harassment comments under her name, her name, and middle name and under two fake IDs.

    • Really????!!!!???
      This isn’t really the kind of news I would hope to read in a “real” readership magazine about “important news” concerning our town!! This is gossip “Enquirer “ crap!!
      Please get bigger than junior high tattle telling info!!

      BTW – Giselle Hale was a public representative during her campaign- she held the position on the planning commission & therefore shouldn’t have been blocking anyone from participation:(

      Barb Valley you also are representing public entities ( both RC Library and Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, so I hope you are not blocking folks 🙂

      • Merrily, you are completely missing the point.

        Christina Umhofer used not one but TWO fake FB identities (Ann Marie, Rose Cella) to not only post confrontational comments in replies to Ms Hale on the Giselle Hale Councilwoman FB page but also in replies to others who were posting on that page. (There are screenshots of her duplicitous activity if you are interested) Using a fake FB account is a direct violation of FB TOS.

        Umhofer then referred to the comments she had made with the fake identities using her own identity. After Umhofer learned Mark was writing a column she then deleted the comments make by her fake identities as well as her own which also deleted my and others replies to those comments.

        Umhofer then resurrected her old campaign FB page, posted her explanation of her questionable activity. When I replied to comments on that page my comments were deleted by her and the only comments which remain are those from various RCRSW members who profess support for her and make derogatory remarks about Ms. Hale.

        Umhofer has blocked Mark Simon, me and several others from seeing any of her posts/comments anywhere on FB.

        This column is a prime example of good, investigative reporting. It is also important news RWC residents are entitled to hear. Umhofer was a candidate for City Council; she may very well decide to run for that position again or some other elected or appointed position. Her character/integrity/ethics or lack thereof should be known.

        As an appointed Trustee of the RWC Library Board I am a public official. I was neither appointed nor elected as co-chair of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association. Neighborhood Association Chair is a volunteer position and as such is not a public official. If/when I post/comment on FB in either capacity I identify myself as such. Otherwise, I am Barb Valley a private individual.

        I have never nor do I intend to ever block anyone. When you block someone not only do you not see the posts/comments of the person you have blocked but that blocked person cannot see any of your posts or comments. I would never prevent someone from reading my informative utterances.

        If I were to block any of the folks on the Say What page who have attacked me or made spurious accusations or demeaning comments the list would be as long as your arm and would most certainly include you. I have been blocked by several of the SayWhat folks and I wear that distinction proudly as do others who have been blocked. As I stated in my OP we’re thinking of getting T-Shirts. We already have a secret handshake..

      • Merrily, the Brown Act refers to elected representatives. Public employees and volunteer citizens are not required to keep their social media unblocked

  3. She screwed up. She admitted it. She apologized but good to see that you’re still poking the bee hive Barb. I don’t miss having to moderate you.

    The councilwoman technically shouldn’t have blocked anyone since she was, at the time, a public official on the planning commission.

    I wish all involved would use their time building our community up not finding joy in tearing it down.

    • Interesting. Was, Christine, Ann Marie and whatever other nam es she may have used building up community when Cyberstalking and posting malicious, off topic and entirely silly attacks about Julian Edelman’s roots on Facebook? Is that what we have come to expect from people who seek to represent us in office?

    • You, like Merrily, are completely missing the point. Umhofer’s actions were duplicitous and violated Facebook’s TOS. In addition, I learned yesterday Umhofer herself blocked someone during the campaign.

      Since you are no longer listed as an Admin and I understand no longer a member of Say What you don’t have to worry about moderating. Actually, since you blocked me long ago, the point is moot.

    • Stasha, We are doing a story on this very issue. lots of assertions are being made about it that have no basis in fact, and in fact are contradicted by the cases they cite and the article from the ACLU that they post. DO you have any expertise in this matter? If so, we will have the reporter assigned come and talk to you about your claims.

  4. It’s great to know through Ann Marie that the organization that raises money for our children’s education is so distasteful to her and her view that paying a fair wage in construction is driving up costs. Will her proposal, if elected, to council be to roll back minimum wage protections so that the rich don’t have to pay so much for stuff…If she gets elected to the school board, will she prohibit private contributions to improve education for our children and provide things like music and art in the classroom. That doesn’t match her campaign pledges–I don’t think that was her message when she sought the labor endorsement….

  5. Wow!! This is shocking, not surprised though. If this had been Giselle Hale doing this she would be ripped to shreds. Wonder how Umhofer will spin this to her kids.🙁

  6. “I am more than willing to work with people of differeing opinions” said Giselle Hale. Obviously she was not willing!
    When asked questions on her own political page she had a habit of doing the blocking. As a running candidate, Hale didnt want to read or answer guestions, I and many others were blocked from Hales page just for asking a question which were then quickly deleted. In doing this, Hale had the habit of making everthing look like all is well in RWC, sunshine and ponies, yet it was far from it. Though I wonder just how many of Hales ‘followers’ were mere plants from her ‘friends list? Hale has proven she does not want to deal with the public nor answer questions truthfully. She has an agenda of her own and won’t be sidetracked by being honest or allowing difficult questions to be asked.
    There are many on the FB pages that use more than one name, it appears, to help get a message out or sway public opinion or to just get an HONEST answer from a canidate Whatever the reason they are part of many public forums.
    This artical once again proves that Mark Simon is and will continue to be a glorified gossip columnist and a paid promoter of J paul.

    • Jane, From the article: But blocked or unblocked, Umhofer “was always able to reach me by email or phone,” Hale said, “She didn’t need to create a false identity.”

      You or any of the other Say What folks who claim to have been blocked by Hale could have also reached out to Hale by email or phone as well. In addition, Hale always posted dates and locations of her Meet & Greet events and was always available before and after the various candidate forums. Instead, Umhofer used alternate identities and you and others spewed your venom on the Say What page.

      Adults deal with issues; cowards hide behind their keyboards.

      You claim there are people on many public FB forums who use more than one name. That sounds a lot like the Republican’s “But…Hilary”defense.

      Gossip columnist? Mark reached out to Umhofer via email with a series of questions about her use of the Ann Marie identity while writing the column and asked that she reply by 2 pm. That’s what journalists do, they vet information. She did not do so, instead scurrying around to get rid of the evidence of her duplicity. You know the type of people who do that.

  7. The only thing that is bizarre is that you would even write and publish a story like this. Especially, so long after the election.
    Tom, the only reason Umhoffer came in 5th was because of dirty campaigning and her not lowering herself to be bought out by developers.

    • Carole, That is an interesting theory. My theory is more fact based. Voters liked 4 other choices far better. Of the 4 that finished ahead of her, at least 2, perhaps 3, did not “lower themselves” to the condition you described. But we wouldn’t want the truth to get in the way of your story. The story seems to be very topically written as it has just been brought to light. I wish it had been discovered earlier so that it could have been a topic of the campaign conversation.

    • Actually, Christina did poorly in the candidate forums. There were numerous instances where she did not come across as very articulate, prepared, thoughtful, well-informed, or particularly intelligent. Most voters want candidates they support to come across as well-qualified and at least as smart (or even better: smarter!) than they are. A number of the ideas/proposals she offered were simplistic and/or obviously ineffective and betrayed a troubling sense of naïveté. News that she failed to vote in prior elections and her lame excuse for it were also both telling and devastating. I think the extremely poor judgment and immaturity displayed in this latest “alter-ego” incident and her ongoing angry “sour grapes” post-election snarky hectoring and attacks confirm why voters very wisely dodged a bullet by electing others.

  8. What a ridiculously long article about nothing. About twice as long as it needs to be, indicating that this columnist has a agenda.

    • Yes, agreed. The columnist appears to have a very serious agenda of exposing bad behavior and hypocrisy. Jeez. I am absolutely dumbfounded by the Triumpian levels of support of certain candidates who could probably “shoot someone” in the middle of Broadway and not lose voters.

  9. This article is just the tip of the iceberg. She has been slandering people, families, churches, & schools for years. She finally got what she had coming. Payback is a …..! I could go on for another hour writing about the grief she has caused others, but for now, this is enough. She is actually evil and needs some serious meds! She is the queen of the anonymous letters defaming good people behind their backs. Please do not vote for her on the RWC School Board. You will be sorry in the near future if you do, trust me.

  10. I have no idea who any of you people are. I have never met any of you and I couldn’t pick any of you out of a crowd. I constantly have discussions on Facebook with people who are completely anonymous or have hidden identities like “Darth Vader or Sparkle Pony 27” etc. Same on sites like Quora. For all I know, I’ve had arguments with Russian bots. While I certainly think it is weird to have a false identity on Facebook, I care about what is said not who said it. That is as long as a false identity is not used to harass people.

  11. I think anyone who holds public office, or aspires to hold public office, should conduct him or herself with honor and transparency. Faking an identity to comment publicly about an elected official who beat you in an election is far afield of that standard. I’m grateful to Climate for supporting local journalism and to Mark Simon for helping us understand how our leaders and aspiring leaders behave. It’s up to each of us as voters to decide how much we care about what we learn. The important thing is that the information is accurate and available.

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