Steamboat Springs Editor's Note: The following commentary was written and submitted by supporters of John DeVincentis who met with the Pilot & Today Editorial Board to discuss the recall of DeVincentis.
We understand the Pilot & Today Editorial Board is considering writing an editorial in support of the recall of John Devincentis. We think that would be incredibly unwise on the part of the newspaper.
We disagree with the Pilot & Today about the recall and about the lawsuit and appeal you recently filed against the School Board. We don't need to repeat reasons for opposing the recall and the SOS RE2 group. But we will tell you why we think it would be an incredibly unwise move on the part of the newspaper to go ahead with a pro-recall editorial.
Here are the main points:
1. The Pilot & Today has done more than enough to help the recall effort and at the very least should now remain on the sidelines.
2. It would be irresponsible to come out in support of the recall before results of the school board investigation are known. You could be supporting something that is associated with illegal activity.
3. Here are two quotes from your April 4 editorial about D.A. Bonnie Roesink: "Subverting the people's choice through recall is a serious step that should be reserved as an option of last resort" and "If her performance as district attorney has not lived up to expectations, the voters can make a different choice 18 months from now, in the 2008 election." Does this not apply to John, especially when the people who are actually on the board working with him do not find him disruptive and do not want him recalled?
4. You've already written an editorial saying John should resign.
5. Editor Scott Stanford has a big conflict of interest because of his wife's previous job, and it will look bad - really bad - after all that's happened, to now come out with an editorial in support of the recall. It will look like you either don't know when to quit or you're desperate for this recall to succeed.
Here are a few examples of how the newspaper's coverage has helped the recall group:
First of all, you printed the e-mails, which was a questionable move in the minds of many.
Nearly every article repeats the very worst things from the e-mails, taken out of context. The negative is always accentuated over the positive.
You have covered the recall group and their meetings in detail, including what they have to say and how to find a petition. There have been five articles where the main topic is the recall effort and numerous more that are generally negative about John.
The newspaper's continued coverage of this issue has been biased, and that includes the article in Sunday's paper, written by a reporter, who, two days before, wrote about what a great time he had at the Gleasons' party. In the article, he quotes four people supporting the recall and one who's against it. In a reach, he tries to link John's anger toward Simms with the current situation, saying, "In more recent e-mails, Devincentis' anger continues." Then he quotes recent e-mails to Howell which, although again taken out of context, sounded reasonable to me from someone trying to ensure that a job is being done.
The article states, "Former and current school officials say public trust in the district's leadership is fading..." Well, maybe, but it's certain that public trust in the Pilot & Today's fairness is fading. The e-mails wouldn't have hurt anyone if they hadn't been printed.
You didn't cover some other relevant angles to this story such as: what happened between McGowan and Simms to make him upset with her, why was John so upset with her, why did Gleason and other former board members save the e-mails for two years, why didn't they tell the current board about them? You've barely mentioned that the e-mail leak was a security breach.
Given the extent of the Pilot & Today's bias on the recall issue, we admit that we considered that it might actually hurt, not help, the recall group if you come out with an editorial in support of them. Lots of people have said they're disgusted with your coverage, and some of them are not fans of John and have considered signing the recall.
In the midst of all this criticism, we should add that we have no doubt you are trying to do the right thing, just as probably everyone in this story is. We just think you've made some big mistakes.
If the goal was to punish John, it's been done. If the goal was to neutralize any influence he has on the board, that's been done too. If the goal was to be sure the superintendent's job was safe, we think it is.
On a final note, we have to appeal to everyone's human compassion. How badly should a person be hurt, degraded, and humiliated in a small town? Especially someone who has contributed so much over so many years and is now volunteering at a difficult job to try to do what he thinks is right. He made some mistakes and he and his wife are paying for drastically, every day.
I realize a newspaper can legally take any position it wants, but writing this editorial now would be treading into dangerous waters if you want to maintain any semblance of being fair and balanced. The Pilot & Today, and specifically the editor, will have overstepped their bounds.