19 February 2008

did media general/kalb fail to disclose a conflict of interest in the 2007 rapides parish sheriff's race?

UPDATE: did the central la media and sheriff chuck wagner just get punk'd?

in the 2007 rapides parish sheriff's race much ta-doo was made over a rumor that should he win, kalb news director michele godard was going to become chuck wagner's public information officer. these rumors began around the time that ms. godard and kalb aired what some called hit pieces against mr. wagner's opponent mike slocum.

the first one called "race for rapides sheriff political maneuvering" was posted to kalb.com on 02 november 2007 on 05 november 2008 sheriff hilton responded with "rapides parish sheriff hilton responds to threat allegation" and that was followed on 07 november 2007 by "rpso deputies speak out."

on 13 november 2007 kalb hosted "rapides parish sheriff candidate debate" later that night on the 10:00 p.m..news, ms. godard and kalb general manager les golman in "kalb responds to biased reporting allegations" made a big deal out of reporting among other things that "mr. slocum’s campaign made demands on news channel 5 for the removal of its news director michele godard from the scheduled debate"

there is probably a lot more sheriff race news videos on kalb.com and dont be surprised if they all suddenly disappear from kalb.

on thursday 15 november 2007 two days ahead of the run-off election ms. godard appeared on local talk radio station ksyl. according to the above clip from that appearance ms. godard was there to "represent the television station to clear up a couple of things." the very first question posed to her by dave graichen before even a good morning was "ok the big question i got michele are you going to go work as p.r. for the sheriff's department?" after a round of laughter by all, ms. godard responds "no of course not i'am not qualified for that job...i wouldnt even know how to be a p.i.o. i have some suggestions of course"

the end result was that chuck wagner prevailed over mike slocum by some 1,398 votes. on electronic voting machines we might add.


on election night, saturday 17 november 2007, michele godard interviewed chuck wagner [video] among the first words out of sheriff-elect wagner's mouth were "i want to thank bill [robinson] and his family and his supporters for coming out and getting behind us and we're just truly blessed." that night the last question asked of mr. wagner by ms. godard was "alright let's clear the air here - are you going to hire me as your p.i.o.?" mr. wagner said "thats not true. i know the rumors going around but you know i've put everything in writing, what i was going to do. it's on my website, if you havent seen it i encourage you to go look at it and thats what i did i put it in writing, so i can be held accountable and thats what government needs to do - not only the sheriff's office, but any office needs to be held accountable and i look forward to that." in lightof recent revelations, one has to wonder if the viewers werent the butt of a huge inside joke that night.

now flash forward to 16 february 2008 and the town talk story by abbey brown "new policy restricts media's access to employees of sheriff's office" (download two page .pdf here) we learn that the sheriff wagner's new p.i.o. is heath crawford. the town talk reports that mr. crawford "most recently worked at kalb-tv as a producer and in marketing." no thanks to the town talk and their trademark half-assed reporting (notice how they always leave out the most obvious and most important parts of stories) doesnt bother to find out or if they did find out the town talk suppressed the date that mr. crawford began work at kalb.

although the town talk reported that mr. crawford said that "his last day at kalb was friday." which would have been friday 15 february 2008 there is some confusion there too, because a press release from the rapides parish sheriff's office by mr. crawford dated thursday 14 february 2008 is posted to kalb.com:

not much is known about mr. crawford. the internet movie database mini-biography entry for 'director heath crawford' ends in 2004. although, the filmography lists mr. crawford as working in 2006 and 2007 as a camera operator for several episodes of "my own" jennifer lopez.

mr. crawford's myspace is set to private but a blurb that is publicly viewable, mr. crawford assures us that he is "a lover not a fighter...but i'll still kick your ass!!"

mr. crawford's website at www.outoflinefilms.com doesnt have contain any biographical information either. it does list two addresses in the contact information, one in north hollywood, california and one in alexandria. louisiana.

so the obvious question that everyone should be asking is when did mr. crawford go to work at kalb? was he working at kalb during the 2007 rapides parish sheriff race when he was also candidate bill robinson's campaign manager and then chuck wagner's campaign manager? did he produce any of the news stories or the candidate forum 'debates'? if so, why wasnt any of this disclosed by kalb?

these are important questions that need answering especially due to mr. crawfords profession as a "director" and "producer" and his hollywood connection. the kennedy-nixon presidential debates in 1960 showed the power of television as an instrument of political manipulation...