Sweeping dirt under a rug
By JEFF JOBE
There are many different thoughts on how to manage a newspaper and just as with any business, sometimes we hit the mark we have set for ourselves and sometimes we fall short.
Each of our community newspapers have a central goal of being the best local news source for documenting real life in their community and this is what we do best. I look back at the first issues I printed in my first newspaper in Butler County and I can remember the day I took the photos, covered the meetings, and even designed the advertisements in the pages.
We were successful back in 1998 because we didn’t just cover meetings, we shared our lives and documented them as they happened.
Too many times media outlets come up with cute little slogans or themes; you can probably think of a few on your own and will surely recognize the popular “fair and balanced.”
But I have never struggled to find balance in good and bad news or offering some view that we provide all sides to an issue.
This is not our job with news. Our job is to be truthful and this is what we guarantee.
On important issues or matters that can go to the heart of a community, finding truth is sometimes a challenge, especially when dealing with a public figure or government agency.
One particular issue that seems to have fallen in our lap is our coverage of the Glasgow Electric Plant Board. It seems other media outlets didn’t feel an audit showing $2.4M losses in cable/broadband wasn’t newsworthy. So, if you are aware of it; then you or someone read it in the Barren County Progress.
It seems EPB Superintendent Billy Ray, his board, Tennessee Valley Association Authorities and our Mayor Dick Doty felt the best way to handle this was to quietly document the issue, execute some paperwork outside the view of the public and move on. My grandmother, Mae Miller, would have said they swept the dirt under the rug instead of giving it a thorough cleaning.
Never was there any discussion that using money and profits for anything other than lowering rates was quantifiably illegal.
This alone would warrant removal of this board but in today’s litigious society, it is prudent to provide a full review and investigation and this is exactly what the council is attempting to do with local attorney Danny Basil.
Basil identified several issues he felt were factors and could be used in hearings to remove the remaining board members Jeff Harned, Cheryl Berry Ambach, and Norma Redford if they chose this route.
Among those and the most damning is the disregard for honoring the Model Procurement Code and the Open Meetings Act.
Simply put, there are procedures to assure citizens that government officials will use fair practices in offering contracts and will conduct themselves in an open and honest manner.
We have seen what decades of corruption has done to Kentucky by playing political favorites, giving bids to political contributors or restricting large pockets of hard working Kentuckians from the bidding process.
It is quite possible these community minded board members were just in over their heads and lacked knowledge of these laws. It seems in our lives as regular citizens that ignorance of the law is never an excuse; however, I too, am softer when dealing with volunteers.
However, Mr. Ray is no volunteer. He is an experienced, trained, well compensated government manager that knowingly pushed his board to approve him to go around these laws and he knew it was wrong.
I am comfortable that legal counsel for EPB will do their very best to push this issue up to the TVA federal level and if TVA accepts the responsibility of this, it could take years to get in court and they know it.
We can only hope TVA will honor our community and not allow this to happen. They made the right decision in not covering Mr. Ray’s attempt to hide the SET program participants.
I believe the absolute best scenario is for this board to accept the fact that they have lost the public’s confidence and resign from their posts. Step aside and allow a new board to be appointed; one committed to follow the law and experienced in management of personnel because Mr. Ray needs managed.
They lost the public’s confidence the moment it was proven senior citizens were using less energy and paying more while large corporations were saving hundreds of thousands and using more and paying less.
Stepping down will save them the embarrassment and both them and our community the long and costly fight that must happen if they don’t.
This board needs a thorough cleaning and we can not allow Council members Patrick Gaunce, Brad Groce and Chasity Lowery to sweep more dirt under the rug.
Publisher’s Note: Jeff Jobe’s column above was written prior to obtaining a copy of attorney Danny Basil’s report to the Glasgow City Council that was tabled for future discussion at the Council meeting on Monday night. See page 1 for news coverage of the meeting and Basil’s report.
Jeff Jobe is founder and CEO of Jobe Publishing, Inc. His commentary reflects his personal views and does not reflect the views of personal or professional associations and affiliations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his previously published commentary at www.jobeforkentucky.com
Loved this editorial– the job of a newspaper is to tell the truth, who knew?? As a resident of a town having its own issues with a power company, I applaud this critical but reasoned opinion.
~ Former newspaper reporter in Cincinnati, Ohio
I appreciate your truthful reporting of this matter. Its very unfortunate that many co-op boards and “non prifits” like municipal utilities, RURAL PHONE CO-OPs, are so corrupt! The federal govt. is extremely corrupt. Thats why we’re 20 trillion in debt! This country should have no debt and actually have a surplus.