Saturday, March 18, 2017

Janet Carlson: Fact Check

Last week, the Salem Weekly did a story on one of the many (11) reports by community radio station KMUZ's (100.7 FM in Salem) Willamette Wakeup about the Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Task Force.  The report aired January 17, 2017.

The story prompted a local commercial radio station to interview Carlson.  Here are the highlights.

"Surprised" by Report

Talking about the podcast of the report, Carlson said, "We were not aware that it existed before she [Marion County Public Information Officer Jolene Kelly] found it in their [Willamette Wakeup's] archives."  She said Kelly was "surprised" by what she heard.

In fact,  we'd sent Janet the podcast on January 28 (see below), just like we'd sent the podcasts of all the previous Willamette Wakeup reports for the past year, as well as all the reports from here.  Someone might have been surprised, but it was not Carlson.  

Carlson: "We sent a letter to KMUZ asking if we could have equal time to be able to clarify and straighten out, uh, some of the misinformation that was included in that show."

January 28 email to Carlson with link to 1/17 podcast
In fact, Kelly's letter asked KMUZ to "either remove the podcast from further distribution, or allow the county, and other task force conveners if they wish, the opportunity to respond in a follow up interview" (see below).  Zermer and Bill Smaldone (the President of KMUZ's Board of Directors and member of the Salem Weekly Editorial Board) both reviewed the podcast, and concluded "the research was thorough and makes a compelling argument for public concern."  John Gear, legal counsel to the Board, also reviewed the podcast, and heartily approved the quality of the reporting as a "scoop." 

Carlson: "It hasn't been rescheduled.  We're working on it.  It isn't that we don't want to go on the show, it's just that we haven't had the opportunity."

It's true in fact that it hasn't been rescheduled, but that's because Marion County hasn't attempted to reschedule it.  The last communication was a February 20 email from Marion County saying they would "touch base next week" (see below).  Only the most pathologically naive would be foolish enough to believe Janet Carlson is somehow sitting by the phone, waiting for someone from KMUZ to call her to reschedule her interview.  

Jolene Kelly's letter to KMUZ
Carlson: "It surprised us that we weren't contacted at all, after this small group that requested the email, to find out if they had questions, so they made a lot of assumptions.

However, Carlson failed to identify a single erroneous "assumption" in the report.

Carlson: "I don't think Melanie Zermer or the [KMUZ] Board was aware of the content of the podcast, either."

Zermer and the Board certainly were aware of the content of the podcast when they declined to remove it as Marion County had requested.  It's not overstating the case to say they were, in fact, quite satisfied with the quality of the reporting.  

Everything was "Legal"
Carlson said, "[The hiring of Karen Ray] was totally legal.  Follows all our county contract laws and rules."

This comment completely ignores the facts reported by the Willamette Wakeup team that raise questions about the propriety of events leading to Karen Ray's hire, e.g., that Karen Ray was Carlson's friend and that she, Carlson, asked Karen Ray to reduce her price by $5,000 so as to avoid having to go through any County-mandated review process.  The report never claimed her hiring was not "legal."  Everyone knows cronyism and skating are "legal." 

Marion County's last communication to Willamette Wakeup

Carlson: "[The Willamette Wakeup report] implies somehow that the Task Force was hiring Karen Ray.  The Task Force, really other than having the four jurisdictions charter, it has no legal standing, it has no money, it has no budget, and so it's not the Task Force that hired anybody, it's Marion County that hired Karen Ray."

This comment, like the one before it, completely ignores the concerns expressed in the Willamette Wakeup report, having to do with Polk County Commissioner Jennifer Wheeler's stated and repeated wish to put the matter of whether or not to hire an out-of-state consultant to facilitate the work of the Task Force -- to the Task Force itself.  It apparently does not occur to Carlson, even now, that the Task Force might have wanted, or was entitled to have, a say in what work they would do, or how they would do it.  To Carlson, it's all about who has the power.   

Wheeler Left due to "Personal Things"
Asked "from your mouth, what happened with Jennifer Wheeler", Carlson said this:

Jennifer had some personal things going on in her life at that time, and she stepped away from the Task Force, uh, she, there was some confusion in how the letter was written, and so, when, when we got the letter, Anna, Cathy and myself, from Karen [sic], we needed to check in to find out whether it meant that Jennifer was stepping down, or whether Polk County was stepping away.  And that took us a little while to, uh, Anna talked to Mike Ainsworth, I talked to Craig Pope, uh, we also talked with our legal counsel, they had not rescinded their charter, so we thought it would be best to clarify at the next meeting, that while Jennifer had resigned, that Polk County was still at the table.  So it was the consensus of the co-chairs to come up with a statement, uh, to say that the four jurisdictions were still moving forward.  When I talked with Craig, they were really not interested in trying to, you know, the other two commissioners had a lot of commitments, didn't want to step in, and only three meeting left at that point, so, uh, that was where we went.  I sent you an email, I hope you got that, from Jennifer where, uh, she basically did not condone the, you know, kind of the blogs and the commentary that was going on about the Task Force and Polk County. 
This doesn't even sound truthful.  
The alleged email from Wheeler, we have not seen*, so we can't comment on that except to say there is a strong factual basis for all of the Willamette Wakeup report, including all the reasons behind Polk County's decision to resign, and the unmistakable fact that they did resign (Wheeler's letter speaks for itself [see left], which is why Carlson never released it).  Carlson's account of "what happened with Jennifer Wheeler" is not truthful, but it's entirely consistent with our previous reports of her views on the  matter.    
[Update: see Wheeler's response to Carlson's assertion here.]

Everything was "Transparent"

In closing, Carlson said, "The other point that we want to make is that in some of that innuendo or insinuations or speculations, there's a lot of discussion about transparency and whether we're being transparent or trying to mislead and all of that, you know everything was done appropriately under public meetings laws, you know, when a question came up, I contacted our county attorney, she sent me a statement, I sent that statement out, and I sent that statement to you [the interviewers], that, you know, what we were doing was within the bounds of the public meeting law.  I'm the one in Marion County that actually started the training in public meetings law.  It's a big deal to me, so it's interesting that somehow I'm getting tagged with the idea that I'm doing something inappropriate."  (Emphasis added.)  

Yes, on this we can agree.  The idea that Carlson is doing something inappropriate is interesting.  Willamette Wakeup also thought it was interesting, and so did Salem Weekly.  That's why they reported on it.  Accurately. 

Notably, Carlson said absolutely nothing in the interview about Willamette Wakeup's report that she lied to the Task Force when she told them that Sheriff Garton and Heidi Mackay had not resigned, they "just couldn't be here."  And that's not all she failed to dispute.  See here for complete details.


*We've asked Commissioner Wheeler for a copy of the alleged email or to be told the nature of her disagreement with the reporting, but have not yet had an answer.  When and if we receive a reply, we will update this blog.

Update 3/19: added comment to the effect that Carlson is not waiting by the phone for KMUZ to call.

1 comment:

  1. It's great to see KMUZ and Salem Weekly as well as Sarah reporting on this.