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Another News-Times Email

Following our Trey Allen piece, some readers posted comments, and we would like to thank them for their input, and thank you all for reading.  “Lee Benedict”‘s post made reference to an email exchange between he and News-Times News Editor Donnie Fetter regarding a story he wrote that Benedict claimed was not exactly accurate.  “Jim Cox” posted that we did not mention that it was Brett McGuire who was ousted from the Columbia County Planning and Zoning Commission after he qualified as a candidate for the state legislature.  We posted that we did not mention McGuire, as we did not mention Benedict when speaking about Ben Harbin, because their names are not and were not important regarding what our position is and was: Harbin received a challenge due to his demeanor and attitude towards the people following an unfortunate incident, and a new rule was adopted to oust McGuire who was replaced by Jim Cox, the person who runs the company that handles Ron Cross’ and Ben Harbin’s campaigns…and was appointed by Cross to be McGuire’s replacement.  We also asked Benedict to send us the email exchange, if he still had it, for us to read and perhaps publish.  Below is that email exchange followed by our commentary.  We sent Benedict an email with some follow-up questions.  His reply was rather evasive: “You asked for the exchange, which, I think is important for the people to see, so I sent it to you.  Other than that, I have no further comment.”  Enjoy.

From: Lee Benedict
Sent: Sunday, March 14, 2010 8:11 PM
To: Fetter, Donnie
Subject: clarification

Donnie:

In reference to your article on the CCGOP and Lawrence Hammond in today’s paper, I would like to point out a few pieces of pertinent information. Please know that I am doing this of my own volition as an individual citizen with first-hand knowledge of the situation.

The column makes reference to Lawrence Hammond being given 5-days notice as opposed to the required 30. On October 13, 2009, a letter was sent Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested to Mr. Hammond (Pat Goodwin can authenticate when the letter was actually signed for) in which the charges/accusations were explained. However, Mr. Hammond chose to not respond. As I understand it, that letter should have been clearly marked as being from the County Committee. Instead, it was from the Ethics Committee; a hyper technicality.

Another thing in need of clarification is this ongoing rumor being touted as fact that there was a coup against Lawrence by supporters of Brett McGuire, as if who on the Executive Board supports whom matters. I know that some support Ron Cross, and some support Brett McGuire, and some are undecided. Does it really matter who the Chair of the CCGOP is? Let’s not forget that Brett and Lawrence had high-profile positions in each other’s campaign. Honestly, there is no coup, nor is there a litmus test for what candidate is supported in a given contest. Now, there has been talk of declared Republican candidates appearing before a special committee of the CCGOP so that they can be vetted. This is what should happen. For some reason, this is being rumored to be an anti-Cross/pro-McGuire move. False. In a contested primary, the CCGOP cannot endorse a candidate. There are those who may very well say that more challenging questions can be asked of a certain candidate, which I suppose is true. However, it is my understanding that all candidates for the same office will be asked the same questions. Furthermore, it makes perfect sense for a political party to question candidates prior to an election; questions are asked, and then the candidates’ responses are written down and distributed to the party members so that they can see where the candidates stand on the issues. The Chronicle does it for every election…it is for information purposes only. Should a candidate choose not to appear, so be it. Not every candidate answers every questionnaire and appears at every forum and interview. So again, please believe me, Ron Cross and Brett McGuire have nothing and had nothing to do with what has been happening.

I hope that this helped paint a fuller picture of what has been happening. All is well. Things are going just fine. Membership is increasing. Thanks!

Lee

from Fetter, Donnie
to Lee Benedict

cc “Paschal, Barry”

Mon, Mar 15, 2010 at 12:02 PM
RE: clarification

Lee:
 
I can only suppose that the District Committee considered the notice more than a “technicality” since it affirmed Lawrence’s assertion and re-instated him. Also, no mention was made of an Oct. 13 notice in Barbee’s letter, nor by Pat during a phone conversation I had with her on Friday morning.
 
As far as Lawrence being the victim of a Cross/McGuire rivalry within the Executive Committee, I don’t see the relevance. My job is to relay the facts available to me. I’m not interested in rumor and innuendo unless I know them to be, and can confirm, that they are accurate. Even then, I would only be interested if the rumors adversely affected the public in some way.
 
But I do have a question: If the party is prevented from endorsing a candidate during a primary, why vet them? The Chronicle and The News Times does it to inform voters on the issues of the candidates and to make an informed decision on who to endorse for editorial purposes. Does the party plan to vet candidates in a public forum so all hear the responses? If that is the case, I can better understand the purpose.
 
Donnie

from Lee Benedict 
to “Fetter, Donnie”

cc “Paschal, Barry”

Mon, Mar 15, 2010 at 12:44 PM
Re: clarification

Thanks for the follow up.  It has been reported in other columns and other papers that this situation came to be out of some Cross/McGuire rivalry.  That being the case, I just wanted you to know that none of this arose from a who supports whom debate.
 
I used the term technicality because a letter was sent on 10/13 from the Ethics Committee via Certified Mail detailing the charges and affording the accused 30 days to appear before the Ethics Committee in order to present the accused’s side and perhaps resolve the matter right then and there.  The accused opted to not appear. It was explained to me that had the letter been sent from the County Committee, the December 04th decision would stand.  Again, that is what was explained to me; a letter was sent, but it did not come from the entire County Committee, but from Ethics.
 
Why vet?  Perhaps “vet” is not the best term to use, granted.  It is my understanding that if a candidate wishes to seek the GOP nomination, then s/he will be asked to go before a committee and answer questions regarding why one wants to run, background/qualifications…  For example, I suspect that Ron Cross, Brett McGuire, and anyone else seeking the GOP nomination for County Commission Chairman, will be invited to appear and answer the same scripted questions.  The answers will then be put side-by-side and sent to the people.  If a candidate opts not to participate, then so be it.  This committee is being formed as we speak, and when it is established, I or another person will let you know.  What I will do is get a more official answer to your question of why “vet”?  Thanks again!
 
Lee

Interesting.  A few things we’d like to point out:

  1. Benedict sent an email to Fetter, but Fetter replied to Benedict with a Cc to Barry Paschal.
  2. Fetter’s opening of, “I can only suppose that the District Committee considered the notice more than a “technicality” since it affirmed Lawrence’s assertion and re-instated him. Also, no mention was made of an Oct. 13 notice in Barbee’s letter, nor by Pat during a phone conversation I had with her on Friday morning” is weak.  If Hammond claims that he was not given ample notice, but a 5-day-notice, and if Benedict’s claim of a certified letter being sent on October 13th is true (he was on the Ethics Committee at that time), that is more like a 50-day-notice for a December 4th meeting.  If we understood the exchange, a “letter” was sent from the Ethics Committee when it should have come from the County Committee.  That is a technicality.  And Fetter’s comment of it being far more than that based upon Hammond’s reinstatement (something that the District Committee had no standing to do from what we were told by several sources) is a sign of ignorance and/or one-sidedness and/or spinning his inability to learn of a certified letter sent in October.
  3. Fetter wrote in the article, “A group of county Republicans ousted Hammond as chairman during a December meeting”.  A group of county Republicans ousted Hammond?  Fetter obviously is trying to spin this in Hammond’s favor, and/or, he is naive and/or ignorant.  Hammond was voted out during a called quarterly meeting of the Columbia County Republican Party that was open to the public.  And, he was voted out by a margin of approximately 70%-30%.  Fetter makes it sound as though a few disgruntled Republicans ousted him.  Was News-Times News Editor Donnie Fetter at that meeting?
  4. Fetter wrote in his email, “As far as Lawrence being the victim of a Cross/McGuire rivalry within the Executive Committee, I don’t see the relevance. My job is to relay the facts available to me. I’m not interested in rumor and innuendo unless I know them to be, and can confirm, that they are accurate. Even then, I would only be interested if the rumors adversely affected the public in some way.”  Really?  Barry Paschal has made several references to the alleged inside job Cross/McGuire rivalry, and if memory serves us correctly, Sylvia Cooper has made a point to make Mount Everest out of a peppercorn as well. “Relay the facts available to me…and can confirm”?  How about a bit of research with a side of fact-finding?  He sure seems to side with Ron Cross and his allies regularly which may explain why he censors from the public Magistrate Judge Bobby Christine’s violating judicial canons.
  5. Fetter’s inability or refusal to do a little research and questioning in order to present an accurate and unbiased accounting to the public reminds us of part of the movie “I Love Trouble”.  We have no problem doing it…and we’re not paid to do it and have a fancy title to do it with.
  6. Benedict’s demeanor throughout this exchange is rather professional and dignified.  Fetter probably is not used to it considering that he works for Paschal, and we all know how he communicates with people, namely patrons and Morris Communications’ blog participants.
  7. Fetter asked, ” If the party is prevented from endorsing a candidate during a primary, why vet them?”  Is he serious?  The party asks the candidates for a given office the same questions and then reports the answers to the people.  What’s the problem?  You can “vet” without giving an endorsement.  This is the “News Editor” mind you.

We ask that you read the article and the email exchange and make of it what you wish.  As far as we’re concerned, it’s just more of the regular publications from the News-Times that contain biased partial truths that mislead the people. 

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