Friday, August 20, 2010

Foley v. Telegram

Worcester County Sheriff Candidate Thomas Foley (D-Worcester) has reacted forcefully to the Telegram's reporting last week of his disability pension. In a nearly 1,300-word letter to supporters that he posted to his Web site earlier this week, Foley accused Telegram reporter Shaun Sutner of treating his campaign unfairly and charged that his opponents were engaging in unfair campaign tactics.

First, his comments about Sutner and the Telegram:
In December, when Sean Sutner first wrote an article in the T&G about our candidacy he wrote about the pension as if it was a new revelation. I spoke to him at the time and told him that it had been openly spoken about and vetted in the Boston newspapers. I told him this was no new revelation even though he proceeded to write it as one and inferred [sic] that I was trying to hide it. During this conversation I expressed my opinion that I felt he was being unfair in some stories he was writing about local police. Apparently he didn’t like that as I have never received a fair, substantive analysis of my candidacy since.

...To [Telegram columnist] Diane Williamson’s credit she took the time and effort to research this subject and found that I was telling the truth. It was Sean Sutner who once again lost credibility. Sean Sutner has little credibility with the law enforcement community. 
Sutner responded Wednesday on his ElectionNet blog:
I was mistaken in my story last November in which I reported that there was no mention of a heart disability or the tax-free $112,000 pension when Foley, now 56, stepped down in 2004, saying that he was being muscled by a troopers' union that was trying to undermine him.

What I should have said was “scant” mention.

A check of the major newspaper stories of the time, including The Boston Globe, Boston Herald and the Telegram & Gazette, shows one mention that Foley had put in for a disability retirement....

So, in effect, my story last November did reveal the disability pension for the first time in a long time, and for the first time ever in the T&G, the biggest media outlet in Central Massachusetts, Foley's home region.
Both sides of the dispute have merit. Foley is understandably frustrated that the issue continues to overshadow his campaign. As far as he is concerned, he has addressed the issue years ago and would like to focus on those issues that he feels are important. For Foley, the discussion of the issue now, nearly six years after he left the State Police, must seem tedious and unnecessary.

But Sutner is also correct that while the question had been posed years ago, it had not been discussed in Central Mass. In fact, the question of Foley's disability and pension would not be an issue now, except that he is running for office.

And even if the issue had been discussed in the Telegram years ago, candidates for office must understand that their work history is fair game for the press, regardless of how old or worn out that history may seem to the candidate. (One can look at the difficulty Jeff Perry, candidate for Congress in the 10th District, is having over allegations stemming from his police work nearly two decades ago as another example.) Just because it's old news to the candidate doesn't mean it is old news to those who are considering for whom to cast a vote.

Perhaps more germane to the campaign itself is Foley's charge that employees at the jail--who he implies are Bove supporters, although he does not explicitly say so--are engaged in dirty tricks. He also ties Sutner's work to these opponents:
...I will apply that same persistence and high expectations if I am elected to Sheriff because it is our job, the public expects it and because it is the right thing to do. It is for this reason that some who work at the jail are launching these negative attacks.

There is a group working there that doesn‘t want change. They don’t want to be held accountable. They don’t want to act professional [sic]. They want to continue with the old practice of promotions based upon who you know or who you donate to...Throughout this campaign I have become aware of some questionable activities by jail employees while being on the payroll that I will follow up on if I am elected. Last night many of our signs were destroyed (including one supporter’s sign destroyed and tires slashed) and Sutner wrote another jilted article. It makes you wonder what kind of people we are dealing with here; hiding behind anonymous unfounded allegations and late night cowardly acts. Please do not respond to the negative campaigning and unprofessional activities we are seeing and will continue to see.
Foley's charge that jail workers "don't want to be held accountable. They don't want to act professional [sic]." and that they may be tied to dirty tricks could become explosive in the last three-and-a-half weeks of the campaign.

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