LONG BEACH, Wash. - The strange case of the Aryan Nations' interest in the Long Beach Peninsula took a new turn Wednesday with news that the affair may have been misinterpreted either because of a deliberate ruse or because of a series of faulty assumptions.
Paul R. Mullet, leader of the Aryan Nations, in a telephone interview at 10 p.m. Wednesday, stated unequivocally that he was not in Long Beach Tuesday night for a Pacific County Weed Control Board meeting and that he has never been in Long Beach.
A man resembling Mullet attended the meeting, sat in the back avoiding photographs, and then announced as he was leaving, "I just want you guys to continue spraying so my group can come down and buy his property." But he did not introduce himself or wear any insignia that might identify him as a member of the white supremacist group.
Not everyone present signed the meeting roster. It is unclear today whether the one unidentified name on the roster has any connection with Aryan Nations.
The reporter present at the meeting identified the man as Mullet based on a photograph taken weeks ago in John Day, where an Aryan Nations faction has considered buying property for a new national headquarters. The reporter followed the man into the parking lot to ask questions and obtain a better photo, but the man ducked behind a parked pickup and the reporter felt uncomfortable about pursuing him.
The name given on the meeting sign-in sheet was not Mullet, but someone identifying themselves as having an affiliation with Nahcotta's Moby Dick Hotel. Pacific County noxious weed coordinator Tim Crose said today he incorrectly assumed the man was Mullet, as did the reporter.
A possible local tie-in with Aryan Nations first came up in connection with a controversy involving Moby Dick Hotel manager Keith Stravrum and owner Felice "Fritzi" Cohen over spraying herbicide on their property to combat the invasive spartina grass, which is classified by the Washington state as a noxious weed subject to mandatory control.
At a weed board meeting in March, Stravrum raised the Aryan Nations as a possible buyer for the hotel property if county decisions resulted in more chemical spraying around the hotel, which strives to raise and serve fully organic oysters. He later told members of the Ocean Park Area Chamber of Commerce that if pushed on the spraying issue, the hotel would be sold to "someone not good for the community."
A statement addressed "To all business owners and residents of the Long Beach Peninsula" dropped off at the Chinook Observer's front counter Monday also said continued herbicide spraying in the vicinity of Moby Dick would result in a decision "to accept the offer made to them to sell to a group of people that want to open a headquarters in the Pacific Northwest." This letter then immediately goes on with what purported to be a quote from Mullet, stating "Ocean Park is the perfect place for us." Handwritten on the top of this letter was "Buyer's (SIC) will be there (at the weed board meeting) awaiting outcome."
But today Stravrum refused to say who this "group of people" might be, saying only that a $3 million offer is in play. He denied ever specifically saying that the prospective buyer is Aryan Nations.
Responding to additional inquires, the Aryan Nations' Paul Mullet phoned the reporter Wednesday night after his e-mailing to deny he had been in Pacific County this week.
"I am in Ohio right now," he said. "After receiving your e-mail I 'Googled' Long Beach to find out where it is. I will be calling local law enforcement tomorrow to have the two individuals ... who made a claim to be me arrested.
"This person that is impersonating me will have many questions to answer. It is against the law to impersonate someone and I appreciate it if you would make a statement in your newspaper that I was not there!"
Mullet said he will be on the East Coast for some "meet and greet" exchanges later this week.
There is no official indication at this time that the person attending the weed board meeting was acting with an intention to deceive or violated any law.
As for the spraying controversy, the current plan is to have the county either put down an expensive barrier five feet around the Cohen-Moby Dick property or to mow that five-foot buffer area. Crews will then precision-spray herbicide using what is referred to as the backpack method.
Pacific County Administrative Officer Bryan Harrison said Wednesday that he had explained this plan to Stravrum after the meeting adjourned. Stravrum's reply was, "That would help us make our decision."