Elizabeth Salaam 11 a.m., Sept. 17
Blogger Still Unhappy about Voice's Handling of Muni Bond Scam
Joel Thurtell, a Michigan blogger on civic issues (joelontheroad.com), last May broke three excellent stories on a municipal bond outrage in Poway. In clearly-written blogs on May 1, May 10, and May 12, Thurtell described how Poway got seduced into a kinky bond deal. In August of last year, Poway issued $105 million of so-called Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs) — financing that is held in scorn elsewhere in the country. For $105 million, the city's taxpayers will wind up paying $981.6 million, and possibly more than $1 billion. But for 21 years, no payment is due; that gives the politicians who arranged for these stinkers plenty of time to get out of office.
Will Carless of Voice of San Diego recently had a story on these bonds. He had interviewed Thurtell, who explained how this kind of financing worked — (well, doesn't work). But in his story, Carless didn't mention his key source and gave Thurtell no credit for originating the story. Initially, Thurtell wrote Carless to say he liked the story. But then Carless went on CNBC. The announcer gave Carless credit for breaking the story and Carless didn't offer a correction. This annoyed Thurtell, who wrote CNBC and Voice, asking for corrections.
The Voice's editor, Andrew Donohue, gave a mea culpa, which some say was really a sorta mea culpa. Donohue acknowledged that Thurtell had broken the story, but wrote, "We weren't trying to hide his work or take credit for it." Donohue acknowledged that Carless should have given credit to Thurtell on CNBC.
Tonight (Aug. 9) Thurtell told me that CNBC has never answered his complaint or made a correction. CNBC "credited [Carless] with breaking the story. He knew that was incorrect." Thurtell still praises Carless's story. When Carless didn't cite him as a source or the journalist who broke the story, Thurtell thought it might have been an oversight. "Then I watched him on CNBC. It didn't look like an oversight." Should Carless have quoted him in his story? "I helped him to understand how CABs work. My blog articles were a text for him. In such a case, had I been the writer, I would have explained my source's role."
Donohue says it is "really unfortunate" that Thurtell is still unhappy. "I've tried calling and emailing with him to talk it through and he hasn't responded." Among the publications to comment on this story has been City Beat.