Article missed important facts
A front page article in the Dec. 19, 2018, print edition of
The Star Democrat (“Talbot council assigns members”) did not include two important facts that helps refute recent concerns by some that “bloc voting” will be the norm on the Talbot County Council.
This article failed to report that Councilman Pete Lesher publicly stated his agreement with Councilman Frank Divilio’s suggestion that discussion on applicants for appointments to boards and committees should be done in executive (private) session. The article also failed to report that such discussions have always been done in executive (private) sessions. Whether these omissions were intentional or due to a reporter at the meeting not paying attention to the council proceedings and not knowing historical precedent, one has to wonder about the commitment of The Star
Democrat to accuracy in their reporting.
One also has to wonder whether or not omitting important facts is an example of a deliberate effort to present information that unfairly portrays certain council members in a negative light while including grandstanding comments by another council member on the need for “transparency.” While The Star Democrat did post a revised and more accurate article on their online version, I have yet to see a correction included in any print editions. Accordingly, all those who only read the print version of the article are likely unaware that the original article was incomplete and misleading.
Going forward, Talbot Count (sic) citizens need to be very cautious on making assumptions or drawing conclusions based on any information included in the print and/ or digital editions of The Star Democrat. DAVID REEL
Easton Editor’s note: The article Mr. Reel cites (which actually appeared in the Dec. 20 print edition, not Dec. 19) did not list Councilman Pete Lesher as joining Council President Corey Pack, Vice President Chuck Callahan and Councilman Frank Divilio in support of discussing committee assignments for county council members and applicants for boards and committees in closed session.
When that omission was brought to our attention, the online version of the story was updated, and a clarification was published in the Dec. 23 print edition. That’s what any good newspaper does.
Mr. Reel couches the language of his letter by writing that he has yet to see a correction in print — leaving open the possibility he had missed it — but the letter’s overall tone and language, his proposed headline (which we did not use) and his decision to submit the letter to a local online news outlet suggest the real point was to malign this newspaper.
To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Reel made no attempt — at any time between Dec. 20, when the article was published, and Jan. 2, when he submitted his letter to us and
elsewhere — to contact us concerning the omission of Mr. Lesher in the initial print version of the story or to ask if we had printed a clarification or correction.
If his concern truly is about allaying “recent concerns by some that ‘bloc voting’ will be the norm on the Talbot County Council,” why not contact us soon after the article was published to make us aware of the omission or to ask us to correct or clarify the story?
Instead, Mr. Reel, a veteran of public relations and political campaigns, slyly suggests — without directly stating — that The Star Democrat was deliberately slanting its news coverage of the Talbot County Council.
Let’s be clear: There is not now and — to the best of my knowledge in nearly 25 years at this paper — never has been a “deliberate effort” to “unfairly portray” anyone in any manner in the news coverage of The Star Democrat.
One could wonder whether or not Mr. Reel’s letter is an example of a deliberate effort to unfairly portray this newspaper in a negative light.
One could wonder whether that effort to unfairly portray this newspaper in a negative light stems from the recent campaign for Talbot County Council, in which Mr. Reel was involved with the Common Sense Talbot PAC, which supported the election of Jennifer Williams, Corey Pack, Chuck Callahan and Frank Divilio.
One also could wonder whether that effort to unfairly portray this newspaper in a negative light is part of a longterm strategy by Mr. Reel and some of his colleagues on the Republican Central Committee of Talbot County, as well as his associates at Common Sense Talbot, who have attacked The Star Democrat on social media at various times in recent months.
What is particularly troubling to us concerning Mr. Reel’s baseless attack is an apparent false claim in a previous letter from him. That letter concerned a guest comment submitted under the name of Nick Panuzio, chairman of the Republican Central Committee of Talbot County.
The Star Democrat did not publish that piece. It was sent from a different email address than the one typically associated with Mr. Panuzio, and we were unable to reach him for confirmation that he either had submitted it or had authorized its submission by someone else.
We have had a longstanding relationship with Mr. Panuzio in his role as the central committee chairman, have published numerous guest comments submitted by him and are well aware of his usual practices when submitting a letter or guest comment to us for publication, none of which occurred in the case of this particular submission.
That letter was published online elsewhere. A subsequent guest comment by Christine Dolan in The Star Democrat concerning that “Panuzio” letter asked why Mr. Reel would write a letter under Mr. Panuzio’s signature without Mr. Panuzio even reading it.
In a reply, Mr. Reel wrote: “I wrote it for Nick Panuzio as he was indisposed with a stay in the hospital and is also grieving over the recent death of his sister.
“The facts are Nick was aware of my writing the letter, he read it, signed off on it and agreed to attach his name to it by virtue of his position as chairman of the Republican Central Committee.”
Before publication of her guest comment, Ms. Dolan had told this newspaper that Mr. Panuzio acknowledged he did not write that letter and said he had never read it.
After publication of Mr. Reel’s letter, we were able to reach Mr. Panuzio, who personally told this editor that while there had been discussion of a letter of some type, he did not read or sign off on the letter written by David Reel and sent to this paper as having come from him. At the time of that conversation with Mr. Panuzio, Mr. Panuzio said he still had not read the letter supposedly written by him.
Mr. Reel, as mentioned, also has been affiliated with Common Sense Talbot, as was Republican Central Committee member-elect Matt Albers. Albers, for those who don’t recall, falsely portrayed himself as Sears Wheeler in a letter to the editor that was published by The Star Democrat. Wheeler/Albers also wrote a second letter to The Star
Democrat that was not published because we became suspicious of whether he actually existed. Before submitting that second letter to the newspaper, Albers appears to have sent a version of it to several of those involved with Common Sense Talbot, according to an email we have reviewed.
Among those to whom it was sent Oct. 12, 2018, were Williams, Reel, Connie Sheer, Alan Silverstein, Allen Bryan and Susie Hayward. The email also was copied to Keri-Ann Thomas and Julie Stevenson, the two partners in JaKa Media, an advertising/social media/website design company hired by Common Sense Talbot.
In that email, Albers noted he had attached two versions of a piece concerning Resolution 262, the proposed amendment to Talbot’s proper ty tax cap (subsequently rejected by county voters in the November election).
“One strictly fact based for Keri-Ann and Julie and the other with a bit of opinion that I would like to submit as a Letter to the Editor at both the Spy and Star Democrat.”
Williams replied: “I like them both, especially the second one that really takes her (Laura Price) to task. Are you comfortable sending it over your name or do we need a surrogate?”
That email exchange was in mid-October.
The initial letter from Wheeler/Albers to The Star Democrat was published on Oct. 21. Two days later, Wheeler/ Albers submitted his second letter to us, subsequently triggering our suspicions about whether Wheeler really existed. We believe that letter was the one mentioned in the Oct. 12 email and to which Williams asked “do we need a surrogate?”
We may never know for sure who knew what and when about Sears Wheeler/Matt Albers.
But we know that Sears Wheeler was born on Facebook in mid-September. And he submitted his first letter — to the Talbot Spy — about that same time.
We know that Jennifer Williams (who had served on the Talbot Republican Central Committee), Connie Sheer (a member of the GOP central committee), David Reel and Allen Bryan Jr. all were both Facebook friends with Sears Wheeler and included in an email exchange in which Williams asked whether Albers needed a “surrogate” for his proposed letter to the editor.
We know that Wheeler claimed to live on a property owned by Jeannie Bryan, the aunt of Allen Bryan Jr. We know that Jeannie Bryan told this newspaper that Sears Wheeler was a real person. And we know that was not true.
We also know that one person who apparently had no direct involvement with Common Sense Talbot and was a Facebook friend of Sears Wheeler knew that Wheeler was not a real person. That Facebook friend actually was told who was behind the Sears Wheeler persona before accepting the Facebook friend request from Wheeler.
It boggles the mind to believe that one or more of those intimately involved with Common Sense Talbot, which bills itself on its Facebook page as “THE VOICE OF TRUTH” — and especially those who also had connections to the GOP
central committee — had no knowledge that Matt Albers — who was connected to both entities — had created the Sears Wheeler persona and was using it to attack Laura Price during the 2018 election.
We believe our exposure of the Sears Wheeler sham and Jennifer Williams’ subsequent loss in the November election is a contributing factor behind these attacks on The Star Democrat.
But we will not be bullied and we will not sit quietly by while being attacked. Meanwhile, we will continue to do our jobs — reporting and publishing fact-based articles on local governments, community and business news, and sports.
And we’re human, so we occasionally will make mistakes, as all humans do. When we do, please let us know so we can correct the mistake. You may email [email protected]dem.com, or call or text 443-239-0156. Letters to the editor are welcome at let[email protected]dem.com.