Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

So, the Arizona Republic's Editorial Page Editor WARNS, don't be fooled!

On Sunday, September 6, four days after Tom Ryan filed his conflict of interest complaint against Susan Bitter Smith, Arizona Republic Editorial Page Editor Phil Boas penned this admonition to his readers, which Chris Herstam posted to Twitter.

It reads,
Sorry, but I have trouble believing that people who have been upstanding public servants in this community over decades have suddenly checked in their integrity. Susan Bitter Smith, Bob Stump and Bob Burns are decent people whom I trust more than some of the self-interested parties who are working hard to marginalize them. There is a titanic struggle underway between old and new power generation, and the players are ruthless on both sides. Do not be fooled.
Herstam, another person with a long history of service to Arizona, quipped when he tweeted an image of the newspaper clipping,
Sorry, but I have trouble believing that the Editorial Page Editor can be this naive. Conflict of interest & dark $.
Perhaps Herstam is right. Maybe Boas was simply expressing his naivete. That would be giving Boas the benefit of the doubt, in my opinion. There ARE other possibilities. I'll leave them to your imagination.

However, when attorney Ryan read that, he was indignant. I believe rightly so. Ryan then wrote his thoughts and sent them directly to Boas. Here's his letter, to which by the way, Ryan says Boas has not responded. The text of the letter follows, published with the author's permission.
Re: "Politics of Personal Destruction"
Dear Mr. Boas: 
On Sunday, September 7, 2015, you posted an opinion at the top of the Viewpoints Section entitled "Don't Fall for the Politics of Personal Destruction." Although you did not mention my name, you directed your comments - in part - to the Complaint I filed last week seeking the removal of Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith. Since I am the only one who did that, I assume your comments were - in part- directed at me. You referenced my complaint as the work of a "self-interested" party "working hard to marginalize" Susan Bitter Smith. You also expressed that you had "trouble believing" that an "upstanding public servant" like Susan Bitter Smith over decades "would have suddenly checked in [her] integrity."
Let me answer your criticism of self-dealing on my part. I do not work for any group, any political interest or at the direction of anyone. I was not asked to do this nor was I paid to do this. I seek no public office. My sole interest in filing the complaint was to bring to the attention of the Attorney General a matter of state wide importance. This is not the first time I have taken on a matter of political importance for the State of Arizona on a pro bono basis.
So what evidence do you have that I did this at the behest of a group or for financial gain? Unlike you, I provided nearly 400 pages of documents to back up what I said about Ms. Bitter Smith. What is your proof about me?
Additionally, I emailed you a copy of the Complaint and offered to appear before your editorial board to answer any questions you had about the matter. You could have asked me anything you wanted, including what my motives were and why I was doing this. You did not respond. Instead, you created a fictive narrative about the work that I did and plunked it at the top of the Viewpoints page for all to see. Was that fair?
It took me a lot of time to do the investigation, and to make sure that the complaint was fair, truthful, relevant and accurate. The most difficult aspect of preparing the complaint was to research, read, weigh and balance the evidence I found to make sure that the complaint was fair, truthful, relevant and accurate. I learned lots about Ms. Bitter Smith that I did not put into the complaint because such information didn't meet all four elements of my criteria. Let me give you an example of what did not make it into the complaint, and also answer one of your criticisms of my work.
You exclaim "surprise" that Ms. Bitter Smith would suddenly check in her integrity. But Ms. Bitter Smith has been previously criticized for lobbying at a time that she should not have. See Grim, Ryan, "House Candidate Still Lobbying Congress," Politico (06/16/2008), I did not include this story because it wasn't relevant to a quo warranto complaint. But it is relevant to your claim of surprise that she has suddenly checked in her integrity. Only a person who has been asleep at the wheel would find it hard to believe that she suddenly cashing in on her influence. Go look at her Technical Solutions website. See where Ms. Bitter Smith crows about her status as a registered lobbyist. See where Technical Solutions holds itself out as a player in the telecom industry. And don't miss where Technical Solutions brags about representing clients before the Corporation Commission. All of this information has been there for years for the Arizona Republic to see. [Editor's note: Bitter Smith's company's website has been scrubbed since the date of Ryan's letter to Boas. However, screenprints of some or all of the referenced items are included in the exhibits to the complaint.]
Maybe you are feeling a bit defensive because a KJZZ Morning Edition reporter asked the questions that the Republic should have been asking about Ms. Bitter Smith during her run for the Arizona Corporation Commission. I don't know that to be true. But if we are going to create fictive narratives about one another, this is one that I could hold onto. Would that be fair? Maybe the Republic has traded access to power in exchange for its investigative integrity. You know, sometimes an editor or reporter can get too close to power and lose their objectivity. I don't know that to be true about you or the Republic. But right now it feels "truthy" to me. But just because it feels "truthy'' should I believe it to be true? Would an accusation that you are too close to the powerful in this town be fair to say about you or the Republic?
You should go do what Kristena Hansen and Brahm Resnik did: go out and talk to people. Go ask the residents of the Desert Crown Ill Homeowners Association how they felt when the Chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission told them that a 55-foot high, 69KV line substation was going to be moved right behind their luxury homes. I did. They felt that there was nothing they could do with the Chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission telling them that the APS substation was going to get moved right behind their homes to accommodate the third richest man in Arizona!! If Ms. Bitter Smith can do this to multi-millionaires what could she do to a little guy like me? Or my children and grandchildren who live in this State? (Now you are getting to the core of my motivation in all of this.)
And, by the way: Where was the Arizona Republic on this issue? Why wasn't your paper out in front on this issue of the Chair of the ACC muscling homeowners to help out the rich and powerful? There was a time when the Arizona Republic/Phoenix Gazette was in the vanguard of ferreting out land fraud and public corruption. They had reporters who got out of their chairs and away from their desks and took on risky, scary stories. Did that courage all get blown up on June 2, 1976?So let me ask you: what should a citizen do when he learns of public corruption? What if a candidate for the legislature is discovered to be clearly lying about his residency while running for office? Should the citizen shut up and ignore it? Or should something be done about it? What if a Senate President running a recall campaign is discovered to be running a sham candidate to divert votes? Should the citizen shut up and ignore it? Or should something be done about it? And what if an Arizona Attorney General is discovered to be running his re-election campaign using his Executive Office and Executive staff on the public tab? Should the citizen shut up and ignore it? Or should something be done about it? Your "Politics of Personal Destruction" statement says I should have just shut up about it in each of those instances.
I don't blog. I don't tweet. I don't have the power of an editorial page of the largest newspaper in the State like you. I do not have any expectation that you would in any way correct your fictive narrative about me. You ended your opinion piece with a dire warning ... "Do not be fooled." I am not the one doing the fooling here. I will never be afraid to call out the political frauds in this State. I'd like to think the Arizona Republic would do the same.
Very truly yours,
Thomas M. Ryan

On the other hand, I'm not so sure I'd give Boas the benefit of the doubt. Without any knowledge of ulterior motives he may or may not have, is it much of a stretch for a newspaper editor who has lived in the environment of a financially withering industry (or at least the commercial business model in which the Republic operates) to rationalize excuses for it's decisions to NOT pursue investigations critical to upholding the public trust?

As is well known, Boas is a son-in-law of Maricopa County's nativist sheriff, Joseph Arpaio. The Republic this week is running a serial story publicizing Arpaio. While that story may proffer some criticism, it IS publicity for the sheriff. Today's installment was titled, "A Nation meets 'Sheriff Joe.'" The pictures posted with today's installment don't look like a fair characterization of a public official with a long history of corruption (losing dozens or more civil lawsuits alleging abuse in his jails; misuse of $100 million in taxpayer funds; admission of contempt of court with possible criminal contempt charges pending, etc.)

(photo courtesy Arizona Republic/fair use)

The bottom line for me is that I lay responsibility -- for Arizona's status as having the most corrupt government in the country -- squarely (primarily) at the feet of the Arizona Republic.

Perhaps it's time Nicole Carroll, newly promoted executive editor of the Republic, to find a new editorial page editor.

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