Rents, Lies, and Videotape

Well, it appears that reporter Sarah Lake and the editors of her paper – the Daily Times – have AGAIN been caught crawling into bed with Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton in an attempt to smear the reputation of an elected official who does not kowtow to either Ireton or the paper.  In its coverage of Salisbury city government, the Daily Times remains more PR machine than news gatherer.  I’m sure Gannett must be proud.

Lake’s recent piece on Salisbury councilman Tim Spies manages to ignore HALF of an advisory opinion issued by the city’s Ethics Commission.  While Lake harps on a RECOMMENDATION that Spies recuse himself from votes regarding the city’s Department of Neighborhood Services and Code Compliance (NSCC) until his own court hearing regarding a NSCC citation is completed, she neglects to also mention the more salient portion of the opinion:

The deliberation and/or vote of Councilmember Spies on pending NSCC legislation relating to inspections of rental dwelling units does not have a direct financial impact on Mr. Spies .(Section 2′.04.030(A)), nor does it seem that his consideration or vote on such legislation amount to a use of his City Councilmember position for his own benefit … (emphasis mine)

Translation – there is NO conflict of interest.  The Commission only recommends that Spies recuse himself to avoid an APPEARANCE of impropriety.  They had already noted that there was no impropriety.

But hey, what can you expect?  Lake has time and again proven herself to be a hack of the worst kind.  She not even clever or adept at camouflaging her blatant bias or in her presentation of falsehood.

Add in the inanity of the op-ed page on these matters and the people who run the local arm of Gannett paint a picture that is genuinely scary – a paper that is so intent on protecting its political allies that it will do or print almost ANYTHING.  I say almost, because they haven’t – YET – accused Spies of being a child molester, Debbie Campbell of running a brothel, or Terry Cohen of being a drug dealer.  Maybe they’re saving those “stories” for the Sunday before the next city election.

Case in point – today’s “JEERS” column:

Two Salisbury City Council members have traded ethics complaints related to their particular living arrangements. One is particularly troubling — the implication that being a tenant rather than a homeowner somehow makes voting on housing issues a conflict of interest. Because so much of the council’s work revolves around housing issues, the city’s Ethics Commission and the council itself should be careful not to exclude renters — who make up a majority of the city’s residents — from participating in their municipal government.

If the premise of their statement were true, this would be great criticism.  Since it isn’t, it merely makes the DT appear to be run by fools or liars.  The ethics complaint against councilwoman Shanie Shields is not based her being a renter.  The complaint against Shields is that she has admitted in the past to receiving consideration, in the form of a below market rent, from her landlord but continues to vote on issues that impact landlords in general and her landlord in particular.  Councilwoman Laura Mitchell is a renter and no one is accusing her of an ethics violation.

Another interesting matter that showed up in Lake’s last piece on Spies is the apparent use of the NSCC for political purposes by the Ireton administration.  Lake notes that the NSCC issued a citation to Spies last Tuesday.  Lake penned the article on Thursday.  Any citizen requesting info on a citation or permit must submit a public information act (PIA) request to the NSCC.  This request must be reviewed by the city attorney and only then can the citizen receive the information (if at all).  According to NSCC director Tom Stevenson, these are the Mayor’s orders.  One city resident I spoke with had to wait four days to get a copy of a permit application submitted by the owners of a property NEXT DOOR – something that Stevenson admitted to me was a matter of public record.  Yet, Lake knows about a citation that Spies said he wasn’t even aware of?

While I’m confident that it was not Lake’s contention to disclose this corruption, she obviously wasn’t clever enough to realize that someone would figure it out.  These events also force us to question the integrity of Stevenson and the NSCC.  Are political opponents being issued citations and / or is the Ireton administration selectively leaking citations to its personal stenographer, Sarah Lake?

No politician is perfect.  They, like the rest of us, all make mistakes.  Why, then, can’t the Daily Times report those mistakes rather than collude with one political faction or another?  The result may be the same, but the Daily Times might be able to retain some credibility in the process.  Continuing on their current trajectory, the Daily Times will spiral down to the point that NO ONE will trust a single sentence printed in the paper.  This is not good for the Daily Times, Gannett, nor the community which the DT claims to serve.

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