Opinion

From the editor: Let's talk about facts

Thursday, October 29, 2020

An open letter to Eureka Springs mayor Butch Berry:

Dear Mayor Berry,

I hope this letter finds you well. I know it’s been a trying year for you, as it has for all of us.

While we’re all living in a pandemic that affects our daily lives, I know it also has had an impact on your city. And you’ve had other things to worry about, too, such as making some unfortunate remarks that were published in a local newspaper.

For the record, the newspaper that originally published those remarks isn’t affiliated with Carroll County Newspapers in any way. We didn’t publish your comments, at least not originally, and we certainly aren’t responsible for your unfortunate choice of words.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I read your email to Green Forest mayor Jerry Carlton and discovered that the whole thing was actually our fault!

“Knowing the Lovely County and their attitude of writing negative articles about Eureka Springs, I’m sure there will be another article in the paper, but please know that I respect you and the citizens of Green Forest,” you wrote.

As managing editor of this newspaper as well as the Lovely County Citizen, I would like to address your statement about the Citizen’s “attitude of writing negative articles about Eureka Springs.”

At the risk of sounding condescending, one of the most important tenets of journalism is that there are no “positive” or “negative” stories. There are just facts, and whether those facts are positive or negative depend on each individual’s perspective.

So, let’s talk about some facts.

Fact: The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission hired an executive director in 2019 who misrepresented her employment history — a history that in fact included several abrupt departures from previous employers and one full-time position that she accepted while on a partially paid leave of absence from another position, with neither employer being aware of the situation.

Fact: After we published a factual and thoroughly sourced news report about the executive director’s background, the CAPC held an illegal executive session for the express purpose of discussing how to respond to that report.

Fact: The executive director’s hiring was never approved by a public vote as required by state law.

Fact: After the executive director was shifted to an independent contractor’s position, her contract was discussed in executive session in violation of state law and rewritten at least twice without being approved by a public vote, as required by state law.

Fact: A former employee of the Eureka Springs Parks Department was arrested earlier this year and charged with stealing public money after an Arkansas State Police Investigation that is apparently still ongoing.

Fact: The Eureka Springs Police Department hired the son of the Eureka Springs police chief in July 2019 just three days after he was fired from the Green Forest Police Department over an incident that is still the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and the Arkansas State Police.

Fact: The state Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training saw fit to strip the police chief’s son of his certification as a law enforcement officer after a hearing last month.

Fact: The Eureka Springs Hospital Commission has twice this year decided to withdraw from management agreements with companies contracted to oversee the day-to-day operations of the hospital.

Fact: The most recent decision by the hospital commission came after an executive session that had the announced purpose of discussion of disciplining or terminating an employee.

Fact: State law makes no provision for discussing a contract with either a company or an individual in executive session.

Fact: The Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission held an executive session on Oct. 7 to “discuss a personnel issue” without declaring a specific reason for the executive session as required by state law.

Fact: The city’s parks director was notified by text a few days later that he had been fired, although the commission never held a public vote to terminate him as required by state law.

Fact: We have expressed our concerns about the city government’s failure to act in compliance with state law on multiple occasions.

Fact: Our newspapers have reported all of these facts, because the citizens of Eureka Springs have a right to know what’s going on in their city government and how their tax dollars are being spent.

Fact: We will continue to report the facts, because that’s our job.

Fact: If you don’t like what’s being published in our newspapers, the best way to change it is by changing the facts about how the Eureka Springs city government operates.

Warmest regards,

Scott

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Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com.