Monday, July 26, 2010

Slander, Libel, Gossip - It's Campaign Season

Since I started this blog in January, there is a standing offer to turn over the blog for other people to post their points of view. Now it's not an open offer. I put three conditions I consider reasonable on the offer.

  • The posting needs to be signed.
  • Any information presented as factual must be verifiable.
  • It may be edited for clarity but only after those edits have been agreed by me and the poster.

This offer was and is open to all. I particularly welcome such postings from people who don't agree with me, of whom there are several. The only person who took me up on this offer was Tim O'Regan who wrote about his experience when he was proposed to be interim police chief. You can read that post by clicking here in case you missed it.

Last week, there was a second submission, by someone with whom I often disagree. (Oh, what the heck, let me put in an exclamation point, two in fact.) !! I want this and I think the readers (300 per week and rising) do too. After reviewing the submission and offering suggested edits for grammar, spelling and clarity, there was one sticking point. Something damaging about an individual was stated as fact. The problem is that there is no way to prove or disprove the statement, nor is there any legal way for the writer to know the truth.

I responded to the request asking that this one sentence be removed since it fit the legal definition of a libel, that is a damaging, unproven assertion printed about an individual. Not an interpretation but an unsupported fact. I do check with a lawyer on these issues, paid for out of my own pocket, and he was quite clear that this should not be published without either a source named or a document. After some back and forth, the poster did not comply, I could not verify the information with the target of the information, and the original poster requested that I not publish his submission.

I am respecting that, although I am not bound to. Later this week, maybe tomorrow, I will frame the arguments in the post about what constitutes suitable qualification for holding public office in North Bay Village. Probably after that, I will write about what's happening now as we enter campaign season and the race for mayor starts out ugly. But right now, I am just writing about my deep disappointment that even simple discussions about North Bay Village politics so quickly degenerate to unwarranted mudslinging.

Dialogue and strongly voiced disagreement matter, and I encourage the readers to send their own views, as long as they conform to the conditions above, but no made up stuff or stuff you can't prove.

This is probably as good a time as any to remind readers on the comment policy. I don't allow anonymous comments and you need to have a Google account to comment here. I didn't want to do that originally but the comments quickly degenerated to personal insults against people not even in public life, threats of physical retaliation and incoherence. There are a lot of places that enable this - LEOAFFAIRS.COM for one but not here. So if you want to comment, get a Google account and be open about it.

Kevin Vericker
July 26, 2010

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