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Monday, January 11, 2010

Alleged Government Watchdog Appears Politically Motivated

*EXCLUSIVE* Response To Gazette Article by R. Costerisan, here

It was a little over a month ago when the Janesville Gazette went on a rampage whining about how county government was stonewalling their open records requests.

It all began when the newspaper supposedly heard from sources and readers that an internal investigation had taken place in county government. In this article, the Gazette reported that Rock County Human Resources Director John Becker had resigned before the investigation was complete. All the newspaper articles involving this episode at the time reported finding no fraud or criminal activity had taken place or formal complaints written against Becker. That there was no paper trail seems to be the county's only downfall. Still, the Gazette made a pretty big stink over the county's response. Afterwards, the Gazette promised to get down to the bottom of this investigation. We're still waiting.

Now enter Sunday's (yesterday) Gazette article about the Rock County coroner's office. Unlike the Becker story, the Gazette doesn't claim they received tips from unnamed reliable sources about any complaints or internal investigations. They don't have to, but out of all the offices and departments in city and county government, are we to believe they chose the coroner's office unprovoked and at random looking for a scandal or personnel complaints? And got lucky? Although the Gazette mentions Becker in the coroner story and practically disregards his findings, they drew no connections to the county's previous stonewalling and incomplete record reporting. Did the Gazette suddenly get enough information this time to satisfactorily report on rumors? I suppose. This story apparently takes off where the last one ended and appears to be nothing but a political witch hunt.

It's no secret that the Janesville Gazette and their political base would like not only to dismantle and walworthize (shrink) the Rock County board, they would prefer to de-democratize county government even further by taking elective offices such as Sheriff and Coroner out of hands of the people. The Gazette it would seem has a political conflict of interest.

Even without a conflict of interest, the newspaper clearly attempted to sensationalize those disputably weak and unfounded allegations made against the coroner. As long as the Gazette continues to pass off he-said-she-said arguments between former and disgruntled employees, supervisors and departments as "watchdog" investigative journalism, it's readers will continue to be held in the dark on the real issues.

But, if the newspaper really wanted to prove themselves a legitimate government watch dog and engage in investigative journalism, they would do well by considering the following:

Checking personnel records in government for complaints? Why only check the coroner's office? Why not check every department in city and county government, elective offices or not on any complaints filed? Compile your findings and compare results between offices. Tell your readers which offices and employees are the most discriminatory and sexually active. That'll sell some newspapers if that's your interpretation of watchdogging.

Why not look for criminal activity and fraud in government instead? Why not investigate which property owners and developers are expected to receive a financial windfall from Janesville's Comprehensive Plan? Who will be gaining by moving the city's only public ice skating arena to the outskirts of the city? Who will be losing? Find out which individuals and developers are members of special interest groups like Forward Janesville and who their links are in government. Which Janesville council members, planning commissioners and committee members have close friendships or client links with members of Forward Janesville or wealthy individuals in the private sector? How does their influence impact our personal income, property taxes and lives? Find out who gains to win and who expects to lose when the city shifts its growth planning around from one area to another? List names and their properties. Who knows? You might uncover a real scandal. If not, this is information local taxpayers should have anyways - after all, it's our money they're playing with.

Find out who or what is the competition when council meetings are closed due to competitive bargaining. Not just in Janesville. Check Milton, Beloit and Edgerton too. Identify and qualify the competition. Which other cities and towns are competing for the business and development that Janesville is also negotiating for? Who are the companies and developers that are fighting for parcels of city land, TIF's, forgivable loans and other perks in Janesville that necessitates bargaining in the first place? And makes the process and negotiations closed and so secretive? Who pursued who? Find out the names of the private individuals and companies who are paying county and city employees to moonlight around the state for private economic development.

Of course, all great journalism and honest citizenship begins by asking the right questions. I've got plenty more if you care.


rcosteri said...

As usual, you hit the nail on the head. Don't expect the Gazette to listen, they know they are the only ones that can recognize good journalism. Obviously the bigger story is what the county administration is doing and why. It's right in front of them, why aren't they reporting it? Do they want to distract the public from what is really going on in county government? If so, why?

Lou Kaye said...

The Gazette only reports on local stories they can use to fit their socio-political agenda. If it doesn't fit - it's omitted. The Gazette's programming and the power they wield is the biggest story in the history of the people of Rock County, its' a chronic problem - I call it black hole journalism. They call it a newspaper.

Anonymous said...

It's been established that the complainer (Hawley) lied, manipulated, coersed, and harassed the staff herself. Did she not think they would ask these people? Look at her CCAP file...foreclosure and arrested for writing worthless checks. There is also a very well known real estate agent in Janesville that is looking for her to the tune of $25,000. A lot of people in the county administration are very upset with her right now. Why do you think the Gazette killed it so quickly? They will never admit they are wrong after that smearing.

Anonymous said...

First of all, making such claims with absolutely NO proof whatsoever is slander. Ms. Hawley has never been arrested, not once, and if you look further into that particular scenario her name was signed on those checks by another person. There is no real estate agent "looking for her" Although I do understand she is in the market to SELL her home, since she has been offered an OUT OF STATE job, a couple of jobs in fact, but only 2 that she is seriously considering. Many other counties can see the value in an employee like her. This is not politically motivated. "You people" want to make everything about politics, did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, someone doesn't give a darn about politics but just wants to see the coroners office run better?

Anonymous said...

I know both the coroner and the former deputy coroner.I guess it is common practice in your politics to run people's names into the ground. If the deputy has found employment else where then what is all the personal attacking going on her about. She is obviously not politically motivated to challenge keach in the next election. Aren't there other issues to deal with now?

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