See more of the story

The listing showed up on a left-leaning job board Wednesday — a group calling itself "Draft Jacob Frey for Congress" said it was hiring a staffer.

Frey, who is running for mayor of Minneapolis, said he had nothing to do with the posting. He said it was the work of opponents, not supporters, since it furthered the narrative of him as an overambitious political climber.

Then the listing was deleted, but not before screenshots were taken and e-mails forwarded.

On Monday, Jorge Contreras, campaign manager for Mayor Betsy Hodges, admitted the posting came from his office, characterizing it as an intern's antics gone too far. The bizarre episode is the latest twist in the battle between Hodges and Frey, the challenger seen as having the best chance to knock her off in the November election.

Evidence pointed to Contreras as the author of the phony listing on the progressive Google group "Wellstone Jobs." The e-mail address used to create it was, the same e-mail Contreras had used to create at least one legitimate job posting for the Hodges campaign.

Reached by telephone Monday, Contreras said at first that he and Hodges' campaign had nothing to do with the listing, and that anybody — perhaps a Frey staffer — could have created it in a way that made it appear to have come from the Hodges campaign. Two hours later, Contreras admitted the posting had come from his office.

"I was wrong. One of our interns did send that e-mail, without anybody's permission, so yeah, it did come from us," Contreras said, adding that he will not identify the person who did it. "We're not going to throw anybody under the bus."

Frey said Monday he does not believe that an intern created the fake job posting, and he said — without proof — that it is part of a concerted effort to distract and confuse his supporters.

"That an unnamed intern was responsible for a concerted effort to create defamatory postings stretches credibility and is absent accountability," Frey said.

The fake job listing is not the only mysterious online posting pushing Frey toward Congress. Accounts have popped up on Facebook and Twitter in recent weeks urging Frey to run for Congress. Frey insists he has nothing to do with any of it, and he will be contacting Facebook and Twitter to determine who does.

Contreras on Monday said the Hodges campaign had nothing to do with the social media accounts, either, and that the phony job posting was part of a spirited back and forth between Hodges' campaign staff and Frey staffer Conrad Zbikowski.

Contreras said Zbikowski — who drew attention last week when he shouted over Contreras at the meeting where the Hodges campaign delivered a letter asking the Minneapolis DFL to change the date of the convention — was baiting Hodges staffers.

Two days before the fake job posting went up, Zbikowski signed up for a Hodges campaign distribution list. He and Contreras had a jocular back and forth by e-mail, and Contreras said he joked about that with the intern, who had access to the account and was using it for several legitimate reasons.

Creating the fake job posting took the "trolling" too far, Contreras said. Hodges declined to comment.

"What happened was stupid," Contreras said. "Let's be clear."

Adam Belz • 612-673-4405

Twitter: @adambelz