Do politics ever change? The liberal Democrats in Texas took a page out of Republican Richard Fritz’s playbook and filed a political indictment against Gov. Rick Perry of Texas in an attempt to smear him with the voters. In 2010, Fritz filed 120 counts against his opponent in the 2010 election for States Attorney, John A. Mattingly Jr. Every single charge against him, charges which were filed with the cooperation of his fellow Republican Sheriff Tim Cameron, who provided unlimited investigators in the effort to bury Mattingly — were later either dropped by an Independent Prosecutor or a jury found him not guilty. The calendar is closing in fast on this year’s election and Fritz has yet to indict Shane Mattingly for anything, but there is still time!
Since the following editorial was written, the WMDM and WPTX radio stations have been sold, ST. MARY’S TODAY was sold and later closed by the new owner.
Tommy “Hambone” McKay has endorsed himself with his own newspaper three times and lost each time. The only election McKay ever won was when ST. MARY’S TODAY endorsed him over Democrat Julie Randall as she attempted to win a second term.
The reference made below to Fritz’s criminal past involves his guilty plea to carnal knowledge of a minor child, along with two other men. The victim later told ABC News 20/20 anchor Chris Wallace that it was forcible rape and States Attorney Richard Fritz termed the encounter as consensual sex, but failed to offer a good reason as to why he entered a guilty plea.
This commentary was penned by Ron Walton, then-owner of WMDM WPTX Bay Media Inc. in 1999.
Odds and Ends
As many know, former County Commissioner Larry Jarboe writes a column for the St. Mary’s Today Newspaper.
Most every week I try and make sure that I dial into his column on the Internet version of the newspaper because I genuinely like what Larry writes. To me, Larry is a true champion of the “little guy” – the average person out there who has little say about what goes on in government. A few weeks ago Larry wrote about the recent “stroke of genius” the local Board of Bozo’s had in handing over $100,000.00 of our tax dollars to a TV station in Washington to promote tourism in St. Mary’s County. It was obvious to me, and obvious to Larry, that this bunch of clowns could not spell “marketing” if you spotted the “market” and “in” this $100,000.00 of our hard earned tax dollars is now in the hands of “Mickey Mouse” and company at ABC a huge spotlight has become lit on these Commissioners. And they know, as with any business, they will be accountable for the results of this monster stupidity. However, this person has learned, through a dream that came to me just the other night, of what has taken place since $100,000 of our tax dollars went to Mickey, Goofy and the rest of the gang.
The vision was clear.
I saw Ken Rossignol, the mild mannered editor of the St. Mary’s Today sitting at his desk, feet propped up, eating Bon-Bon’s and waiting for the phone to ring from an unnamed source of information.
The phone rang, but to his surprise, it wasn’t his source. It was a conference call from that trailer, excuse me, manufactured home, just right up the street. The call went something like this: Ken, we are in big trouble. We got Randall elected and gave her some clear instructions about how to run this county and now she has gone off and spent $100,000 in advertising on some TV station in Washington to promote tourism. There’s no way this will ever work, but we have got to get something going to fill up the hotels around here so everybody thinks its working.
Ken: Well, I don’t know…………
Caller: Listen Ken, if you’re still mad about us giving all of that money to the Enterprise, you have got to understand that we have them still on double secret probation and if they screw up one more ad and don’t continue to write favorable about us, you get the money.
: Well, I don’t know………..
Caller: Ken, if you won’t do it for us, do it for the citizens of this county. How can they afford to have this $100,000 wasted away by some person who is already bored with just the local spotlight and has grand aspirations in mind? Do it for your county.
Help us out and make this work, we beg you!
Reluctantly, in my dream, Ken went forth and assisted this bunch of good ole boys that hoped that this latest expenditure of stupidity would not back fire on them. He immediately got St. Mary’s instant recognition in the Washington Post. What was it? Three or four full pages? Channel 9 in Washington was not far behind. And now, a slot on ABC’s Good Morning America this coming Wednesday
(Kick hell out of Goofy for me) with ABC’s 20/20 not far behind.
From all accounts, his ideas have worked and the tourism business in St. Mary’s is booming.
The area hotels are booked with reporters and film crews from many of the major networks and newspapers. You cannot get a lunchtime seat at Linda’s Café because these reporters and film crews always know the best lunchtime spot anywhere they go. And if the reporters and producers are not enough, there’s the FBI guys that need places to sleep and food to eat.
But, “wait a minute” the good ole boys and other citizens of the county say. “We only want to hear about the ‘good news’ in St. Mary’s County. That’s what we want the rest of the world to see. We want them to see Julie’s pretty smile (the one that obviously makes everyone go deaf), the thorns and briars of Myrtle Point (let the TV audience imagine there is a boat ramp there) and the pictures of the pretty barns that adorn our Enterprise newspaper (the owners on Wall Street haven’t seen many barns and to them that is as exciting as aliens coming to earth).”
In my dream, Ken is astounded by the reaction of the good ole boys and other citizens. “Do it for the citizens of this county” is what he heard and that’s what he thought he did. His spin to the rest of the world on St. Mary’s County is the admittance that there are some problems here but there are some good and decent folks in the county who want change and see little of it every four years.
Our Board of County Commissioners want the rest of the world to see St. Mary’s County for all of its beauty and splendor. They want to show to outside world the high tech center developing in Lexington
Park. But, what this board is not, is marketing people. In fact, this board has made the gravest of mistakes.
They should know that a $50 million dollar “new” coke campaign could not bring people to try it twice. No doubt $100,000 will bring people to the county. But what are they coming to. They are coming to a county where they first encounter a “death trap” in Hughesville because of the road conditions, then to all of those orange cones on 235 saying “work in progress”. They are coming to county where the State’s Attorney was sentenced to 18 months for…wait a minute…let me check his story – consensual sex?
There are coming to a county where if an elected official does not like a news story, it is removed from the shelves or threatened.
They are coming to a county…well, we could go on for days, but you get the picture and everyone knows the truth. Sure, the beautiful advertising will bring them here once.
I am reminded of a scene in the movie “Dave” where he asks his Secretary of Commerce if he wants to put homeless kids out on the streets in favor of spending money to make people feel good about a car they already own.
The moral here is to take care of business at home first, then lavish in the extravagances. The county has tremendous tourism possibilities but when these tourists return home talking about the problems of the county, this will be wasted money.
The first day I arrived in St. Mary’s County, I too noticed certain negatives that turned me off. I noticed St. Mary’s Today and other publications that were filled with the negativity we all know about.
Some of our elected officials seem to have the same thoughts and have taken matter into their own hands by removing papers from newsstands and suggesting, even to a threatening point that certain things or people should not be allowed on our airwaves. To example, everyone blames Ken Rossignol for all of this publicity the county is getting, but it wasn’t Ken who was sentenced to 18 months for….wait a minute….let me get Fritz’s story straight – consensual sex? Do you really want to clean up the newsstands and the newscasts? Then clean up the people that give us the stuff to report on!
Now before all of the Rick Fritz supporters out there think I am on that bandwagon, let me assure you that this is not confined to one elected official. You have a whole group of people now who can’t seem to stand it when a radio personality like Chris Brugman catches them not living up to their campaign promises or when news reporters such as Christine MacKinnon, Tiffany Msonthi, Dick Myers and others report the facts as they are.
As for the Fritz allegations, I nor any of the other news media know what happened that day thirty something years ago. Whatever happened was unfortunate, obviously and I am sure that all parties would like to forget, if not forgive. But that can never happen if there continues to be two very, very different stories to the matter.
Somebody is lying and neither the news media nor you will ever know the truth. But, what we do know as truth is that somebody purposely violated your constitutional rights by attempting to censor what you read, and now with what you hear. And next week, we’ll attempt to address that.
The news media in St. Mary’s County has nothing to apologize for. But many elected officials here have a lot to apologize for – for being in it for personal gain, for not fulfilling their campaign promises, for lying about the past, for damaging people’s lives and for trying to “sugarcoat” their transgressions and backroom deals with your tax dollars on some advertising campaign, which ultimately makes this look like a “Mickey Mouse” operation.
But for those of you who want to continue to “buy in” to your elected officials, even when many of the facts are clear and precise, please understand that the news media here is trying to work with you in this “sugarcoating” of “good news”. I have it on good authority that Ken Rossignol plans to giveaway stuffed hams to the 4th, 6th and 10th phone callers to Good Morning America this coming Wednesday morning as he tries to explain that there are some good and decent people in this county ready to say “no more” to the politics and “dark secrets” of the past.
(Editor’s Note: A federal Civil Rights lawsuit against Fritz, St. Mary’s Sheriff Richard Voorhaar and six deputies was decided in Rossignol’s favor by the United States Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit; Rossignol v Voorhaar)
From Appellate Blog:
Fourth Circuit reinstates fascinating free press federal civil rights claim: A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today reinstated a fascinating federal civil rights claim alleging that a candidate for local office and his friend, the sheriff, engineered the purchase on election day of every copy of a local newspaper that had been harshly critical of them in the past and was especially critical of them in its election day issue.
Anyone who questions whether Fourth Circuit Chief Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III — a former newspaperman himself — is one of the best writers and thinkers in the federal judiciary need only consult his opinion today in this case for confirmation. Chief Judge Wilkinson’s opinion concludes:
The incident in this case may have taken place in America, but it belongs to a society much different and more oppressive than our own. If we were to sanction this conduct, we would point the way for other state officials to stifle public criticism of their policies and their performance. And we would leave particularly vulnerable this kind of paper in this kind of community. Alternative weeklies such as St. Mary’s Today may stir deep ire in the objects of their irreverence, but we can hardly say on that account that they play no useful part in the political dialogue. No doubt the public has formed over time its opinion of the paper’s responsibility and reputation. If defendants believed its attacks to be scurrilous, their remedy was either to undertake their own response or to initiate a defamation action. It was not for law enforcement to summon the organized force of the sheriff’s office to the cause of censorship and dispatch deputies on the errands of suppression in the dead of night.
You can access today’s ruling at this link.