Talk with the Editor: Why we reported on Bartlett mayor's taxes
On Sunday, we reported on Bartlett Mayor Michael Kelly's failure to pay his property taxes on time. On Tuesday, there was a stormy village board meeting that ended with a special counsel being hired to investigate. On Wednesday, Kelly resigned.
The assumption is that his resignation was directly related to our Sunday story. Could be. Maybe even likely. But it also could be that there's more than what meets the eye here.
Whatever the case, we did our job.
Our reporter, Jessica Cilella, received a complaint on Monday about the original story. A reader with genuine concern said that Cilella failed to take into account Kelly's personal problems and that it essentially was irresponsible to report the story. Then, after the resignation, she received another note from the same reader saying sarcastically, "I bet you're feeling pretty proud of yourself."
Here's the thing, and essentially what I told the reader:
We feel no special joy in Kelly's resignation.
Cilella is a caring, conscientious and dedicated young reporter, the kind of fundamentally good person any employer would want to have on the staff.
A village president, any village president, asks his constituents to pay property taxes in exchange for municipal services. That brings with it a special obligation to pay his. It certainly makes it newsworthy when he does not, or when he consistently pays them late — no matter the reason for the tardiness. It's as simple as that.
We did not judge the tardiness, we reported on it. We left it to our readers and to the community to judge.
We're people. We feel the same pangs of heartache that others feel — in many cases, perhaps even more, judging by the reflexive cynicism I witness in all too many venues.
Our coverage on this story was not based on a lack of compassion. It was because we have a role to play.
As I said, we feel no joy in Kelly's departure.
But regarding the pride thing, I am indeed proud of Cilella. Not because she put a notch on her belt. But because as a journalist, she also has an obligation to the community. She met it.
(We encourage you to talk with the editor by clicking on the Comments widget and providing your response to today's column. We want a provocative discussion but one that also abides by general rules of civility.. Please also consider friending John on Facebook by searching John Lampinen Daily Herald and following him on Twitter@DHJohnLampinen)
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