For a number of years I had the pleasure of working with Dennis Yusko who was the TU reporter covering Saratoga prior to Ms. Liberatore. While Dennis had great enthusiasm for exciting stories, he never leaped into print. He did his own fact checking to make sure that the story was real and not some political ploy. He wanted to know who the players were and what their agendas were. He wanted to know if their allegations were backed up by law and fact.
Regrettably Ms. Liberatore does not maintain these kinds of standards. Her story about Bill McTygue and Ann Bullock’s charges against Eddy Miller is illustrative of how Ms. Liberatore covers news.
The basic structure of her stories follow a consistent pattern. Someone makes a damning accusation of another person (usually an elected official). Their motivation for making the allegation is usually hardly masked. Most times they want to damage the target’s reputation in order to support a competing candidate or they are promoting legislation that their target does not embrace. For a responsible reporter this would trigger skepticism and prompt a thorough review of the allegation to determine if it still deserves a published story. Instead, Ms. Liberatore creates the appearance of fairness by providing the target of the attack the opportunity to respond (defend themselves).
Her very act of reporting the allegation in a newspaper like the Times Union gives the attack the patina of credibility. No matter how strong the defense offered by the target of the attack, the reputation of the victim has been tainted.
Her story about allegations made by Bill McTygue and Anne Bullock in the June 13, 2019 edition of the TU is a case in point.
In the story McTygue and Bullock allege that Eddy Miller and Joanne Foresta violated the city and the state’s ethics rules. They further assert that all the members of the city council somehow also violated the same ethical standards.
To begin with Ms. Liberatore might have picked up on the fact that in their letter they asserted that Ms. Foresta and Mr. Miller were married which they are not. This might have been a tip off that meticulous accuracy was not at the heart of their allegations.
Central to their allegations is the fact that Mr. Miller is the chairman of the Saratoga County Independence Party which endorsed the incumbent city council members who are running for re-election. Mr. McTygue and Ms. Bullock also single out Commissioner Madigan for being the recipient of a $500.00 donation from the Independence Party.
Their letter notes that on May 21, the city council unanimously approved energy contracts “…procured, it is believed, through EnergyNow.” Here again, “it is believed” should have been another tip off that the authors might not have all their facts in order.
We then get to the nub of their allegation… Well, maybe allegation is not quite the right term because the authors don’t quite assert the facts of the impropriety, they conjecture about them:
“All of this begs the question, did city council members agree to use the services of EnergyNow, formed by the chairman of the Independence Party [JK: SIC-He is only the chair of the county party] and apparently [JK: Emphasis added] owned by individuals connected to the Independence Party, resulting in significant tax payer-funded payments to EnergyNow and those individuals, in exchange for endorsements and campaign support by the Independence Party of those City Council members?”
So what we have is Mr. McTygue and Ms. Bullock speculating about the possibility of wrong doing.
Even their conjecture is based on a statement that does not stand up to the most modest scrutiny. Those of you particularly observant will note that the vote of the council they refer to was to contract with two actual energy suppliers, not to EnergyNow. So there were, in fact, not “significant tax-payer-funded payments to EnergyNow.”
The authors, in their letter, reference state and city ethics violations which similarly do not stand up to even the most cursory review of the actual statutes and standards. I am including the full text of their letter and along with the detailed analysis by the city attorney that documents their misrepresentations of the codes and regulations.
How I handle these kinds of allegations is also rooted in my assessment of who is offering this information to me. In this case, Mr. McTygue and Ms. Bullock have extensive histories of hostility to Ms. Madigan and Mayor Kelly.
In addition, and not included in their letter, Ms. Foresta was an employee of Gordon Boyd who owned a company called EnergyNext. At the time, EnergyNext had a contract with the Chamber of Commerce to act as a broker to arrange for the best prices between local energy suppliers and chamber members. The city, as members of the chamber, used EnergyNext and in turn, Ms. Foresta was Mr. Boyd’s contact person. Recently, Mr. Boyd sold his company and Ms. Foresta and Mr. Miller set up their own company to continue working in the field. I think it is reasonable to assume that Mr. Boyd who is linked to both Ms. Bullock and Mr. McTygue in multiple ways is the source for these allegations.
People send me similar allegations to those offered by Mr. McTygue and Ms. Bullock. I am just a blogger and not the reporter for a major area newspaper but when people send me material like this I have two possible responses. Usually I ask them to provide me with documentation that supports their allegations. If what they offer is sufficiently important, I may actually follow up and do my own research. I would never consider disseminating the ruminations of people with an agenda unless I had rigorously established its validity.
Calling up the target of an attack (in this case Commissioner Franck) to have him defend himself is not my idea of research.
Ms. Liberatore and the Times Union are abusing the power they enjoy from being a major newspaper. Neither the newspaper in general nor Ms. Liberatore in particular seem concerned about the damage that their reckless behavior may have on the people they may hurt in publishing baseless attacks.