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DAILY COURIER REPORTER WARPS LEGAL COUNSEL ARTICLE
October 18, 2005
Josephine County, Oregon -- Earthquake Patti has struck again. Patti Richter, another activist Daily Courier reporter, has shaken new ground in her latest article rated a six on the seismic scale of misinformation.
On Friday, Oct.14th, in the Grants Pass Daily Courier, Richter twisted comments John Taft made at a regular weekly county commissioners’ public meeting during the time allotted for public input. Taft requested county commissioners place on the ballot a measure that would allow the commissioners, with voter approval, to appoint the commissioners’ legal counsel rather than electing him as has been done since 1995.
Who Can You Believe?
Richter’s article is a study in news misinformation and labeling. Readers across the nation will often find Richter’s type of reporting in their local papers. The problem the reader has is that he generally has no way of knowing what the truth is and what is made up by the reporter. A young New York Times reporter named Jayson Blair was found to have fabricated dozens of articles. Newspapers are losing public trust as well as losing readers as people go to other media for their news. The internet continues to grow as more viewers get their information on line. For example: NewsWithViews.com and the usobserver.com are two excellent sites that tell their readers what the newspapers often don’t. And, of course, there are many other web sites that are dedicated to the truth.
Four Points to Consider
Point 1: In opening her article Richter writes, “The political activist (John Taft) told county commissioners” ... She immediately labeled me an activist to set the tone of the article. The dictionary describes activist as a “militant reformer.” That leads us to the definition of militant, having a combative character. The synonyms for militant include: belligerent, fighting, war-ridden, and warring. Activist is usually used in a negative manner such as the activist religious fringe, activist judges, the activist ecological movement, etc. The term is generally an attack by the labeler on the character of the individual he wishes to discredit. Thus Patti Richter inserts the first twist in her article in an attempt to skew her victim. If the Courier’s political writers were consistent, they would label Sheriff Dave Daniel an activist sheriff as he has sued the county commissioners twice, supported every property tax that came along, and has been a long time critic of the commissioners. And, of course, they don’t use the label activist on public officials but save it for citizens who publicly speak out.
Point 2: Richter writes: “The political activist told county commissioners this week he wants to amend the Josephine County charter to see people appointed to the post. (legal counsel position.) He asked commissioners to consider making the change.” Again, this is an inaccurate and misleading statement by Richter. Fact: I never told the county commissioners I want to amend the county charter. I can’t amend the charter nor can the county commissioners as this has to be done by a vote of the people in Josephine County. What I did was to ask the commissioners to place a measure on the ballot to allow the voters to decide whether to elect or appoint a county legal counsel. Again, the commissioners can’t make the change; they can only put the measure on the ballot for the voters to decide the issue.
Point 3: Richter writes, “Taft complained current County Legal Counsel Steve Rich doesn’t attend many public meetings ...” Fact: Taft read a statement into the record telling what the duties of a Douglas County (a neighboring county to the north) legal counsel are. Part of the statement reads, “A representative from the county counsel attends all regular meetings of the Board of Commissioners and other boards as requested.” Legal Counsel Rich had left the meeting earlier. I knew this and asked the commissioners if Rich was there, and, of course, he wasn’t, thus making my point. I have no way of knowing how many meetings Rich attends; all I know is Rich left early during this particular meeting.
Point 4: Richter writes, “As of this morning Taft had not yet picked up any initiative material to make a change to the charter, according to County Clerk Georgette Brown.” Fact: While speaking to the county commissioners I never said anything about filing an initiative petition. Richter apparently thought adding the county clerk’s name would give the article a credibility boost. Everything Richter gleaned from me she obtained at a public meeting. She didn’t bother to ask for further information on my comments to the commissioners. A reader is quite gullible if he thinks he can trust his local paper to give him nothing but the facts. Sergeant Joe Friday said it best, “Just the facts ma’am, nothing but the facts.”
Why the Legal Counsel Should be Appointed
To accurately inform the Daily Courier readers, Richter should have told them that taxpayers pay the legal counsel Steve Rich a salary of $7,124 monthly, with benefits of 30-33 percent on top of his salary. That is approximately $114,000 annually. It’s reported that Rich has enough time to run a legal business on the side. Since Rich is an elected official, he can come and go as he pleases; he is accountable to no one but the voters every four years. For an appointed counsel Oregon revised statute 203.145 states in part, “Counsel shall serve at the pleasure of the board, on a full or part time basis, and be compensated in the manner and amounts the board determines.” Rich does not serve at the commissioners’ pleasure being in an elective position, but serves at his own pleasure.
Sheriff Dave Daniel has sued the county commissioners twice and asked the commissioners for money to pay his attorney bills. The commissioners have refused to give him any money for this purpose. I was told Rich refused to represent the commissioners in the lawsuits as he is an elected official, and it appears this would be a conflict of interest. The commissioners hired an outside attorney to represent them. Somebody is going to pay the bill; it would be better if the legal counsel earned his pay instead of being able to slip out the back door.
Some voters say they don’t want to give up the right to elect the legal counsel. Electing the legal counsel is meaningless when only one candidate runs for the position as has been the case. The only control the voters have over him is every four years at election time. A recall is difficult and expensive. You can recall a commissioner if you don’t like what the legal counsel says or does, since he is then the commissioners’ responsibility. This would make the commissioners accountable for the counsel’s actions. So there is still accountability of sorts. A full time legal counsel is too expensive and can carry out his own political agenda while in office as was done by Steve Rich and John Harelson the county treasurer/tax collector. The two recently attempted to get the accelerated property foreclosure ordinance approved by the commissioners. The commissioners slapped their hands and refused to approve the ordinance.
The Jerk’s Tape Did It
The position of legal counsel was an appointed one until 1995 when Attorney Steve Rich was elected to office. Attorney Jim Boldt was the appointed legal counsel prior to Rich being elected in Jan. 1995. Boldt allegedly referred to a segment of citizens as jerks and was recorded on tape saying this. This upset some citizens, and county resident Signe Carlson filed an initiative petition in about 1994 and was successful in gathering enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot. The voters approved the measure, and Rich has held the position for the past ten years. The jerks tape is the only reason Rich is in office.
It would be far more efficient and cost effective for the commissioners to appoint their legal counsel. If the commissioners place the measure on the ballot, they would be doing the public a service as well as themselves during this time of cost cutting in anticipation of the loss of up to $16 million in O&C funds.
Patti Richter can be reached at 541-474-3723 or firstname.lastname@example.org
John Taft can be contacted at: email@example.com
rating 6.1-6.9 can be destructive in areas up to about 100 kilometers
(62 miles) across where people live.
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John Taft former president of Josephine County, OR. Taxpayers Association is presently an investigative reporter for the US-Observer and NewsWithViews.com. He has had many years of broadcasting, news writing and reporting experience. He also has written a popular conservative newsletter for a taxpayers organization to inform the public on taxing issues.
Richter’s article is a study in news misinformation and labeling. Readers across the nation will often find Richter’s type of reporting in their local papers. The problem the reader has is that he generally has no way of knowing what the truth is and what is made up by the reporter.