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Wrong Number

3:20 PM, Feb 29, 2012 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Jonathan Schrag, until today the deputy commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), does not deny that he once said, "One way to push back on e-mails is to freak someone out." He also doesn't seem to deny that it's his voice left on Cynthia David's answering machine at 11:45 last Thursday night, telling her that "we are calling from the Democratic Electronic Monitoring Service. We understand that you are an e-mailer with respect to Democratic candidates. We wish you to know that your e-mails are being observed. Thank you."

Ms. David runs an informal gathering known as the Conservative Women's Forum (of which my mother-in-law belongs), which recently informed its members of a hearing involving DEEP. But the forum doesn't make endorsements of any kind—it doesn't even collect dues.

Credit goes to Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie, who wrote up the incident last night. Notice how Schrag handles the unfolding scandal:

Schrag, interviewed by phone Tuesday afternoon, said, "It's not clear to me how this happened. I'm concerned. I'm confused. I certainly don't mean anyone any ill intent." The Fulbright scholar declared, "I'm not a bad guy."

Schrag's explanation for the disturbing incident evolved Tuesday. Through a spokesman, Dennis Schain, Schrag at first said that he'd lost his personal and and state cellphones last week and had reported their disappearance. By late afternoon, Schrag was offering an intricate, improbable explanation: Someone recorded his private conversation, edited a snippet, made a call on a number that's the same as his cellphone—but it didn't come from him—and left the ugly thought on the answering machine of a stranger who happens to be a conservative activist. And that was his defense....

On Tuesday afternoon, DEEP spokesman Schain suggested that any kind of trickery could be done with technology. How Schrag's personal cell number, in his possession when the late-night dialing occurred, found its way to David and left the ugly message on David's voice mail flummoxes the deputy commissioner of complicated subjects. Maybe it was a pocket dial, he mused. That would mean he had to have had her number on his cell.

I ran out of gas. I ... I had a flat tire. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts! It wasn't my fault, I swear to God!

The governor's office, on the other hand, reacted swiftly, announcing that an investigation would be underway—including getting a hold of Schrag's phone records. Schrag, meanwhile, submitted his resignation today.

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