The Hound: A Morganton insider sent this news to me tonight and I thought I'd share it with you. Morganton's Mayor Mel Cohen is running for reelection with Election Day looming on October 11th. You know how with Campaign Finance Reform laws how you are supposed to differentiate what you do as an elected official versus what you do while campaigning for office. Well catch a load of this. Wow!!!, You have to say Wow!!!
Friday I heard a new development in the current local election race here in Morganton.
Due to a PSA recorded by Mayor Cohen and broadcast on Compas Cable (Our city owned cable TV system), challenger for mayor Robert Griner will receive 895 political announcements free.
The PSA aired earlier in September on Compas Cable for more than a week and begins with "I'm Mel Cohen your mayor for almost 26 years" and goes on to say how important NCSD (North Carolina School for the Deaf) is for Morganton and how we don't want to lose jobs and a school that helps so many in Western North Carolina. Since Mel Cohen is the incumbent mayor and a candidate for re-election as Morganton's Mayor, he invoked "equal time" by creating a PSA by himself and airing it on Compas.
On Thursday, challenger Robert Griner contacted WMNC radio and asked about "equal time" and was told that WMNC is no longer a 'partner' with Compas Cable, since last year Mayor Cohen chose to end the partnership and begin a partnership with Charter Cable. Mr. Griner was directed to the City of Morganton and with no choice the city gave Robert Griner 895 political announcements in accordance with FCC rules governing "equal time." Had the city refused, Compas Cable would have possibly been out of business as the license could have been revoked for non compliance or the city could have faced fines or sanctions.
So challenger Griner to this point about a week away from election day has spent little to no money on a campaign, but when he asked about "equal time" he will receive hundreds of political announcements on Compas Cable for FREE !
The News Herald (Morganton's Media General Corporation owned Newspaper) on Friday afternoon stated that they were aware of this issue and Mayor Cohen would have a letter in Sunday's News Herald, in which he would explain the situation to the voters. The letter titled "Community Shows Support For NCSD" is written to HIDE the "Equal Time" facts. In fact, the letter speaks to this matter without calling it what it is ("equal time") by saying "FCC campaign related advertising." Mayor Cohen is hiding behind the story of keeping NCSD open. Mayor Cohen goes on to call it an "honest mistake."
Honest mistake or not, this action results in Morganton taxpayers paying for the labor to "record" spots for challenger Robert Griner for free ! If Robert had purchased the announcements they would have cost thousands of dollars but will be free to challenger Robert Griner due to Mel Cohen's "honest mistake."
Mel Cohen continues his tradition of doing as he pleases with or WITHOUT the will of the people and spending money recklessly and carelessly as if it was his money and not taxpayer money. If you want to re-write this information and post it on the blog, feel free to do so.
The Hound Summation: Mayor Cohen called this an honest mistake. How many times do you see local level politicians pushing the envelope of political propriety, and when they get busted, they call it an honest mistake. It is time for local media, who are supposed to operate in the public arena on the public airwaves for the public good, to open up forums that allow the citizens to be heard, instead of allowing public officials carte blanche on the public airwaves without opposition. Kudos to Robert Griner for standing up for himself.