Plagiarism fracas erupts in Ward 6 race

Melinda Hollis GigCity EdmontonAccusations of plagiarism against Ward 6 candidate Melinda Hollis have prompted calls for her to drop out of the election – but the candidate denies she’s done anything wrong.

Leading the charge is her accuser Kathleen Smith, aka social media personality KikkiPlanet, who says she discovered an essay about urban sprawl that was posted on Hollis’s blog had been cut and pasted word for word from an article published by the Fraser Institute.

“I’m online a lot, and I’m very politically aware,” Smith says. “I read everything. I try not to just read my side of the political spectrum’s propaganda. So when Melinda posted her urban sprawl piece, I knew I’d read it before.” Smith did a search on Copyscape, an online plagiarism detector, and “sure enough it was an article I’d read from the Fraser Institute.”

Smith confronted Hollis online, demanded an explanation and in an increasingly heated exchange, wrote on Hollis’s Facebook page, “You are a bloody disaster and the most dishonest candidate in this campaign.” The war of words culminated in a personal tweet from Hollis on Oct. 15: “You have about as much value to me as a piece of S__T under my shoe. I owe you nothing.”

Hollis is not backing down. In a short phone interview, she says she does not regret sending the shit tweet, explaining, “Who says it’s shit? It could be SOOT.” The candidate denies any wrongdoing.

Melinda Hollis tweet Edmonton GigCity“It’s a blog! It’s not an academic paper. There’s a difference,” Hollis says. “I’ve written academic papers. This is a blog. It’s an open forum for ideas. People need to read about ideas.”

Let the argument commence: Is it OK for a “blogger” to use intellectual property without permission or credit, even if it’s from a “think tank”?

Fraser Institute spokesman Dean Pelkey says they weren’t happy with Hollis’s posting of the original article (written by Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute) – “because it wasn’t properly attributed. There is normally an academic style that is followed when you’re quoting from an academic paper, and she did not do this.” A request to correct the oversight was sent to Hollis, who seems to be in the process of editing her blog posts to credit her sources. In any case, all the Fraser Institute’s material is available for use by anyone free of charge, Pelkey says, “But we always ask that people attribute where the original material came from.”

For her part, Smith says Hollis never addressed the alleged plagiarism with her specifically, and instead turned around to accuse Smith of being a paid Tweeter for one of Hollis’s opponents in the hotly contested Ward 6 race. Smith denies this. The local social media personality maintains she is not working for any of the candidates (unlike a number of other local social media personalities).

Hollis isn’t so sure.

“You look at all that’s been said. It’s nothing but trying to discredit who I am, to get me out of the way,” she says. “Give me a break. Somebody’s playing a game. They have a vested interest in this.”

Edmonton goes to the polls Oct. 21 – and then it will all be over, thank God.