Friday September 29th, 2023 - 02:50:47 AM

Discredited Group Rears Up Again - But Nobody Admits Membership
Austin Wright, March 2, 2009

I notice that once again, the Chatham-Kent Coalition of Concerned Citizens is acting as a mouthpiece on municipal matters. For some reason, Chatham Daily News crack reporters turn to this group seeking credible front-page comments, or else they seem to conveniently crawl out of the woodwork when an occasion to grandstand presents itself.

The only problem is that they are "on hiatus." Lest this newspaper be known as completely devoid of journalistic ethics, let's find out a little bit about this group - who they are, what they do, and why they might be on hiatus.

It's easier to start with their known profile. The Chatham-Kent Coalition of Concerned Citizens is an offshoot of ROCK, which has been dedicated to destroying Chatham-Kent. This in itself makes them an odd choice to be granted credibility as a barometer concerning municipal affairs, since their parent organization's raison d'ĂȘtre was to undermine our municipal structure.

They started off in 2004 seeking an audit of municipal finances, and gathered 7,000 signatures to that end. It failed, and former members of the group claim they were disbanded afterwards.

This petition never mentioned an auditor general review - that demand was invented in 2007 when certain individuals tried to retrieve the document from the Ontario Legislature and retroactively alter the wording to which people had previously signed, to further their own agenda. In fact, the petition was originally attributed to ROCK.

The Chatham-Kent Coalition of Concerned Citizens was always a non-entity. It was never registered, did not have any legal status, and no public information was available about them. The Coalition had no directors, no contact address, and nobody admitted leadership.

I learned this the hard way. When I ran for council, the Coalition purchased advertising to defame me the day before and the day of the election, despite the group being "discontinued." These ads also asserted that my business was closed when it wasn't. The newspaper inexplicably accepted this damaging material knowing it to be false, then refused to publish a retraction.

This turned out to be problematic, because the Coalition didn't legally exist. Since a non-entity cannot be sued, the Chatham Daily News allegedly intentionally obscured the identity of involved individuals to help them evade litigation, and even retaliated to my complaint by preventing my business from running its own ads. They also cut me off from the opinion pages so that I couldn't defend my reputation and remain involved in community issues.

Every person I thought to be associated with this Coalition denied any knowledge, and claimed the group was dissolved. Nobody has ever accepted responsibility, nor have they made any information about their secret Coalition available to the public. The identity of whomever libelled me remains unproven, and justice was never faced.

So either this unchartered group is comprised of anonymous cowards, or it's used as a front for questionable activity for which nobody wishes to be held accountable. It's no surprise then that they don't want to reveal nor admit membership when commenting in the newspaper, and employ weaselly language to disassociate the group's current activity from the defamatory attack ads.

How can a group even be quoted in the media when all its members deny being members? In this context, "on hiatus" is a term designed to deceive readers that probably means "hiding from the bailiff."

If this newspaper wants to quote some slippery citizens' group that desires to remain concealed under a cloak of anonymity, then it better be prepared to tell us who they are, where their funding comes from, what their modus operandi might be, and how much political influence they have with the mayor's office.

At the very least, readers must be permitted to refute Coalition media statements and the many misleading opinion letters apparently submitted by its adherents, some of which appear to be fraudulently signed by somebody other than the true author.

Anything less than full disclosure is shoddy journalism. I trust the Chatham Daily News will aspire to demonstrate some integrity in these matters.


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