Dolcefino Takes Gannett Newspaper to Task for its Trashy EditorialOpinion
SAN ANGELO, TX – The latest video report from Wayne Dolcefino takes the San Angelo Standard-Times to task for its lack of oversight of the City of San Angelo’s accountability in its 2014 contract with Republic Services. Michael Kelly, the Gannett newspaper’s head of editorial content, rebuked San Angelo LIVE! and Houston-based freelance investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino for reporting an “unfounded story.”
See Kelly’s Sunday editorial here.
In his latest video report, Dolcefino takes Kelly to task for ignoring the news tip he offered the paper before he started his investigation. In a reply to an email from the Gannett newspaper’s lead reporter to Dolcefino’s announcing his start of an investigation back then, SAST reporter Rashda Khan seemed interested and offered tips on how to scour the paper’s online archives for information to aid Dolcefino’s investigation. “Best of luck in your search and keep me posted,” she wrote. That was Nov. 1.
WATCH Wayne Dolcefino:
Things changed, and Dolcefino met the team at San Angelo LIVE! in early December. We had reported more extensively on the trash contract than Ms. Khan, who was not involved in the paper’s 2014 reporting. The Gannett paper generally followed the lead and headway San Angelo LIVE! was making on the issue back then anyway.
Dolcefino and LIVE! Publisher Joe Hyde shared information in person in December, and Hyde agreed to look into the Texas Public Information Request (TPIA) production Dolcefino had gathered.
What LIVE! found was the City had not been forthright with the public near the end of the trash controversy in 2014. Back then, were told there was an audit conducted by the City and it satisfied all concerns as Mayor Morrison and City Manager Daniel Valenzuela rushed to get City Council approval for the trash contract before the old contract expired July 31, 2014.
Dolcefino’s research was correct. The City’s statements to us back then were false. We had an obligation to report it.
Meanwhile, we did not ask Dolcefino to withhold any production from the Standard-Times, or anyone else. Our motivation was to get this information out to the voters of San Angelo as the entire city prepared to elect a new mayor and several new city council representatives May 6.
We delayed reporting on Dolcefino’s production because we needed time to sift through exactly 1.01 GB of emails and documents Dolcefino’s TPIA request returned from the City. We found, in addition to the City not concluding the audit it promised, a treasure trove of information indicating an extreme bias of City officials to favor Republic Services, to include:
- City official Ricky Dickson knew about and then covered up overcharges as far back as 2011 by negotiating with a Republic administrative staffer to remove Republic surcharges when the customer exposed to Dickson that City ordinance did not authorize Republic’s extra charges on the Kool Smiles trash bill.
- The City was more forthcoming with Republic than Republic has been with the City. A billing error on Republic’s part was discovered during a routine audit of the City last year. The City’s award-winning finance department was billing the correct fuel surcharges to residential trash customers, but Republic was invoicing the City for a lesser amount. The City fessed up to Republic and issued a $343k check for the discovered under-invoicing by Republic and to Republic post-haste. Why isn’t Republic as transparent to the City concerning the refunds it claims it made to its businesses in 2015?
- Trash contract administrator Jeremy Miller makes $68,328 per year to maintain compliance of Republic to the City’s trash contract. Yet in TPIA documents, there is no evidence Miller has once inspected or audited the trash contractor since the new contract was signed.
- The City is satisfied with Republic Services’ audit of itself about those overcharges of thousands of San Angelo businesses.
Dolcefino reveals that the Gannett newspaper’s editor may have other motivations for his Sunday editorial. That is, they were too slow to move on the revelations the investigation uncovered and got scooped. In an email Ms. Khan sent to Dolcefino right after our reporting went viral on or Jan. 18, she complained of Dolcefino’s “petty competitiveness.”
“Ethically, if you had something to release, and were truly not into petty competitiveness… you should have sent the info to all the media outlets [in San Angelo] once you had something to substantiate your theories,” she complained.
To support his statement in his Sunday editorial, “Those allegations, we have concluded, are groundless,” not Kelly or his staff made one attempt to ask Dolcefino, us, or the City for the information we had.
That probably means getting scooped was the primary motivation of Kelly’s editorial on Sunday.