Festa Italiana, ethical dilemmas #110; August 9, 2005
Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2005
Please watch tomorrow's paper for
a special section about Festa Italiana, which takes place Saturday at Constant's Wharf and other locations throughout the city.
It was late in the game when we decided to undertake this effort and it would not have been possible without the cooperation and enormous contributions of the Suffolk Sister Cities Commission and sponsors of the event.
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I would like to personally acknowledge my gratitude for all the work Mary Jane Naismith, the commission chair, put into it. She was a delight to work with.
The festival should be one of the better events that have taken place in Suffolk, apart from the Peanut Fest/Shrimp Feast. It's going to be a blast.
Monday was a tough day. I had to wrestle with an ethical dilemma for a large part of it. Not being possessed of a lot of ethics myself
(that's kinduva joke)
I sought advice from four other editors I respect from Alabama to Colorado.
Roger Leonard's column normally runs on our editorial page on Tuesdays. As I was preparing to edit it Monday morning, we got word about the Commonwealth's Attorney's office "looking into" (For goodness sake don't say the word "Investigation") the city's RFP process.
The "looking into" was prompted by a letter the office received from Roger complaining about the RFP process, specifically his own RFP at the airport which has been apparently languishing in limbo somewhere for nearly a year.
Roger claims he is being discriminated against because of his outspoken criticism of the city
at council meetings and in the News-Herald.
For me, this just put Roger a little too close to the situation to be able to offer credible commentary on city issues. He probably can –
he's that smart, but my concern is more about the readers who my gut told me would certainly be justified in asking whether his criticism was tainted by his RFP situation and the "looking into" that is under way, in which he is a major player.
The editors I consulted with all agreed.
It wasn't until about 7 p.m. Monday that I made the decision, a full three hours after our normal editorial page deadline. We will have something on Wednesday's editorial page explaining it to readers of the print edition.
In the meantime, I've informed Roger he is welcome to submit letters to the editor, at least until the "looking into" is resolved.
To me the situation is no different than if, say for a hypothetical example, an elected official sat on the
board of a business with someone who wanted to have business dealings with the city and those dealings would benefit the business on whose board the elected official sits. Reasonable people, regardless of the "law" might say, might conclude that elected official is awfully close to that situation and that relationship could influence his vote. They might even expect him to disclose the relationship and refrain from voting or publicly lobbying for the deal. Heck, the commonwealth's attorney's office might even "look into" it.
What's more, were such a situation to arise, I would expect the newspaper would comment on it and urge that elected official to do the right thing.
Of course such a thing could never happen, it's merely an example of how careful journalists and politicians have to be. There is a line that exists that one does not cross, and we take that line seriously.