Yesterday’s blog entitled “Please delete this email after you read it” regarding Councilmember Gary Sherwood’s email resulting in an allegation of violation of the state’s Open Meeting Law created quite a bit of controversy rippling through the Coyotes world, Glendale’s political world and even the journalistic world.
I suppose the reaction from the Coyotes world is the most predictable. As anyone would expect, the Coyotes fans are fiercely loyal and anything that raises the specter of the disappearance of their team from Glendale sends them into overdrive. Their first reaction is to kill the messenger. In this case that includes not only me but Mayor Weiers, the Glendale Star and the Arizona Republic. They denigrated Mayor Weiers for outing actions that may prove to be illegal. They gnashed their teeth over my blog and the newspapers’ articles because they perceived the information as yet another hit on their beloved team.
What they fail to recognize is that while the 4 councilmembers’ actions preceded a vote on the Coyotes deal, those actions could have preceded any council vote on any issue. The troubling issue for many people is not the outcome of the vote but rather the actions that preceded and led up to the vote. The allegation is not about the Coyotes. The allegation is about improper behavior by 4 councilmembers. An investigation by the AG’s Office will surely answer the question, did they collude behind closed doors prior to the vote? Did they conduct city business secretly to assure a positive vote? Why speak to the issue of a possible Open Meeting Law violation when instead fans can deride the messengers? Why is it alright to dismiss possible illegal behavior because it is associated with a vote on the Coyotes deal? It’s a case of situational ethics.
The reaction from the Glendale political world is also predictable. It was learned that when the email first came to light, Vice Mayor Knaack denied attending the meeting. However, that would never do and would not last long. It would have had Sherwood and Knaack as adversaries; something they can ill afford right now. Today, the explanation given is that Sherwood and Knaack were in the same car when they received a cell phone call from Woods. Two things are questionable about this scenario. Where was Sammy? After all, Sherwood in his email says, “Sammy is already on board as he was with us last night.” Even if you can swallow this car explanation, it doesn’t make the allegation go away. The Open Meeting Law says, “Splintering the quorum can be done by meeting in person, by telephone, electronically, or through other means to discuss a topic that is or may be presented to the public body for a decision.” Note that they are not denying the basis of the allegation. Are they trying to muddy the waters by responding to minutia such as where they were when the meeting of the 3 and Woods took place? It’s another case of situational ethics.
The reaction from the print world can only be described as fascinating. Yesterday afternoon, July 21, I received a phone call from Paul Giblin, an Arizona Republic reporter. He proceeded to express his offense that I dared to say that I had scooped reporter Peter Corbett and the Arizona Republic. He opined that my writing was done on the back of Peter Corbett who had made the FOIA request. He said that my journalistic standards were not as high as that of the Arizona Republic’s, and ended by saying; enjoy writing your little blog.
Later that day, I learned that Darrell Jackson of the Glendale Star had made the same kind of FOIA request. Who made the first request? Did Darrell Jackson do his story on the back of Peter Corbett or did Peter Corbett do his story on the back of Darrell Jackson? Isn’t it weirdly coincidental that 2 reporters made the same FOIA request? Even more interesting is who tipped them off to the Sherwood email and why? What was the source’s motive for doing so? Situational ethics once again.
As for journalistic standards…hah…that’s like the pot calling the kettle black. Arizona Republic readers have complained about the perceived bias in this paper’s stories for years; to the point that it has become legendary. All of us, Jackson, Corbett and I, received Sherwood’s email as a result of the FOIA. I just happened to be the first to get it out to the public. Oh well…Giblin’s outrage is much ado about nothing. More situational ethics.
© Joyce Clark, 2014
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