I serve at the pleasure of … the local newspaper?

Craig Hall, Publisher
Craig Hall, Publisher

Any of you remember the television series “The West Wing?” Regardless of its left-leaning scripts and message, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. Perhaps it was the way all of the liberal utopian ideas actually worked instead of how they fail in reality. Perhaps I just enjoy escaping into the romantic aura of how great our nation’s capital could be, like what was portrayed in the movie “American President.” Whatever the reason, I certainly was entertained.

A line that always stuck out to me in both of those creations occurred when a character had his job on the line. They always had the intestinal fortitude to say, “I serve at the pleasure of the president.”

Now, I don’t know Chantal Unfug and probably couldn’t point her out in a roomful of people. I do know Paul Brown a little from doing business over the years and could find him in the same room. That said, I would hazard a guess both of these good folks who were qualified enough to be appointed to their jobs also knew they served at the pleasure of the county commissioners and governor.

When it comes to a couple of local newspapers and their opinions, this fact is lost entirely and for opposite reasons.

Let’s take Paul’s dilemma that occurred last year. Being a fiducially responsible guy, Paul decided the public trustee’s office could save some money by not running page after page after page of notices in the most expensive way possible — that is, in the local daily paper. By putting notices out for bid — all while staying inside the archaic, big-paper benefitting law — Paul was able to greatly reduce the amount spent on the notices. Apparently this was about to catch on with other trustees. Before you knew it, a couple of large circulated daily papers were in Denver along with the Colorado Press Association lobbying against fiscal responsibility. What should have done been at the pleasure of saving money obviously came at the displeasure of others who had contacts with Paul and his compatriots.

Needless to say, Paul was dismissed and order and expense was restored for the pleasure of the local daily paper.

Now on to Chantal. Our newly elected county commission asked for her resignation as county administrator and paid her the severance she was owed on her contract. Since she served at the commission’s pleasure, this should have been all there was to the story. But since this displeased our local daily and weekly newspapers, conspiracy theories and much ado about nothing once again abound.

I have no idea why Chantal was let go. But I do know she could have been let go for cause, not meeting specified targets and goals or no reason whatsoever and it all would have been within the parameters of the contract under which she was hired. I also know the commissioners were well within their bounds in how all of this was handled. Could it have been handled differently? Yes. But can’t everything?

But that’s not good enough for some local media. They want to know why Chantal was fired and claim the commissioner meeting agenda wasn’t properly posted. That is, they don’t like what happened. My thought is that perhaps someone’s buddy got let go and that someone wants to once again flex his or her muscles. My other thought is that some liberal would like us to believe the all-Republican commission conducts secret meetings with robes, hoods and pentagrams all while wearing fake Snidly Whiplash moustaches as they the destroy careers of others. You know what? Maybe the commissioners just thought it was time for a change.

Did it ever occur to these folks doing the complaining that everything was done above board? Did it ever occur to our local daily that perhaps it should be careful what it wishes for as the information it could uncover could be seriously damaging to that person? Does it occur to our local weekly paper writer that while he complains on one hand about how the daily gets its notice contracts his paper disqualifies itself from the bidding? Do either of the local papers understand that while they take advantage of outdated laws on the books regarding notices to their monetary advantage, they complain about the county commission and trustee’s office for following the same laws?

The fact is, we live in a different age.  The law regarding posting notices in the paper is a century old. The county commission posts notices of every meeting according to the law. The real problem is that no one worries about any of this unless it directly affects them, either personally or in the pocketbook. And when pocketbooks are involved, action is taken not for the benefit of the public, but rather the complaining party.

As much as that displeases me, it matters very little to my paper’s success. After all, I don’t do business the new-fashioned way. Plus I don’t have anyone in our commissioners’ office or State Capitol on speed dial.