Thursday November 30th, 2023 - 03:40:49 AM

Compliance Audit Coverage Intentionally Distorted by Media
Austin Wright - November 27, 2007

This is yet another submission of a long string that were denied publication by the Chatham Daily News in response to defamatory comments the editor published about me. In Bruce Corcoran's mind, it's perfectly fine to print material of questionable origin if it supports his favourite mayor, but others are not even allowed to refute vicious attacks against their own reputation. Questioning Mayor Hope is off-limits in Chatham-Kent, so he's free to operate with little scrutiny while Corcoran smugly fulfils a blatantly biased political agenda. There should be an award for that kind of journalistic ethic. It would probably be shaped like a boomerang.

Dear Editor:

The media dropped the ball with its coverage of the recent Compliance Audit. The public never was able to glean the true rationale for conducting the audit, nor learn both sides of the story, thanks to all the distorted sensationalism.

The manner in which this issue was handled by Council, the media, and other concerned parties will pretty much guarantee that nobody ever asks tough questions of our elected officials again. Trust me, it is clearly not worth the risk of public humiliation, litigation, interference to economic relations, and threats against innocent family members to stand up for principles instead of turning a blind eye.

When council revisited their debate over “reasonable grounds” we heard all kinds of excuses and grandstanding claiming the audit should have never proceeded in the first place. Some members practiced revisionism quite adeptly, attempting to distance themselves from their previous stance to “save face.” Councillor Sulman appeared to mock the obligation to examine allegations against candidates who spent some arbitrary fraction of the limit, suggesting that such scrutiny wasn't worth it.

Of course, none of this has any place in an open democracy, where every citizen is supposed to have the right to contribute to the betterment of society and hold political participants accountable without fear. Based on my personal political experiences though, it's probably far easier to just give in to the pressure of intense lobbying and allow an enigmatic few to set the agenda unquestioned, like half of Council appears to have done.

At times our political system seems designed for convenience. Transparency and accountability are nice buzzwords that get lip-service at election time, but don't really apply if somebody dares to start asking inconvenient questions. The net result could be that the real political power comes from behind the scenes where participants are protected from scrutiny, aided by a palette of intimidation and reprisal techniques.

It has been said that the whole point of having elected officials is to draw attention away from those who really hold the power.

Unfortunately, the local media seems to pander to those who dislike any attention unless their agenda is promoted without opposition. Where was the fair, objective coverage of the audit issue? I can guarantee that my side was stifled, and attest that tactics were used to suppress the truth, even though some token sound bites made it past the censors intact.

On November 26th, an opinion letter was published that clearly crossed the boundary of decency with respect to misinformation and vitriol directed against me. The Chatham Daily News website did not ascribe the letter to anyone, but in print, it was apparently signed by Jim Desat. It was no secret in the newsroom that there was way more to the audit issue than was reported, consequently, the editor printed this and other unfair articles fully realizing the coverage was blatantly biased and perhaps libellous.

With all due respect, I have a hard time believing that Mr. Desat was responsible for something written using that particular literary style. Desat barely had anything to say during his entire campaign for mayor, but “his” phraseology looked awfully familiar!

In my opinion, publishing a letter signed by somebody that didn't write it constitutes trickery and deception. Some might call that kind of situation fraudulent. If that were indeed the case, one is tempted to wonder what kind of pressure could compel the disregard of journalistic integrity in favour of political manipulation and interference.

This isn't the first letter to appear with suspicious attribution, which begs the question of what else might have been covered up. Not much can be trusted in any publication that practices underhanded editorial policies restricting the viewpoints of some, while favouring the manifesto of a selected few who evidently don't always reveal their true identity to avoid inopportune responsibility.

As long as the original circumstances that prompted the Compliance Audit still exist, exacerbated by the intentional and needless damage to my reputation and ongoing attack against my family, there is the potential for more political fallout. Scandals aren't necessarily limited to Ottawa.

Local residents not already numbed by cynicism might be shocked to learn what's really been going on. Too bad we might have to learn the answers from outside agencies.

Austin Wright

The Chatham Daily News also published other stinging accusations against me that I was not allowed to refute. Cluttered amongst the falsities and fantasies, the writers alleged, “The accusations by Mr. Wright were flimsy at best.” Other editorial material and (even several council members) stated that I made no effort to research the campaign spending, despite the following request for information being ignored in the top drawer of the editorial writer's desk:

...more, click to see the Chatham Daily News request for information and Compliance Audit tipoff that they ignored


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