The voters gave The Bulletin and the Source a smack upside the head on Tuesday, rejecting their and our editorial recommendations to re-elect veteran Deschutes County District Attorney Mike Dugan and instead replacing him with Patrick Flaherty.
The Source’s editors took the rebuke calmly and quietly. The Bulletin’s editors … well, not so much.
In an editorial yesterday, the paper accused Flaherty of mounting a “smear campaign alleging a sexual discrimination problem in [Dugan’s] office,” saying he “did nothing to discourage the unproven rumors about sexual discrimination in the District Attorney’s Office. In fact, he encouraged these rumors himself.”
Did Flaherty run a “smear campaign”? For an accusation to be a “smear” it has to be untrue or unsupported. Were the allegations of sexual discrimination in the DA’s office lies, or nothing more than “unproven rumors”?
Well, as Al Smith used to say back in the 1920s, let’s look at the record. And there are plenty of records to look at.
As a Source investigative report shortly before the election revealed, there appeared to be considerable substance to the sexual discrimination claim. Former Deputy DA Mary Jo Mongan, complained to Dugan about intolerable abusive treatment by her supervisor, Jody Vaughan, who was in charge of the prosecutor team that handles misdemeanor cases. Mongan received a $125,000 settlement to go away quietly. Four other young female deputy DAs quit while Vaughan was heading the misdemeanor team. (She no longer does.)
There was nothing secret about all this. The settlement paid to Mongan was a matter of public record; the Source easily obtained a copy of it – and The Bulletin could have obtained it just as easily – from the state Department of Justice.
In fact, incredibly, Dugan told the Source that The Bulletin actually has had a copy of the settlement for months. Further, the Source story reported, “Documents released recently by the Department of Justice, copies of which have been provided to The Bulletin, the Source and KTVZ, include accounts from other attorneys [from Dugan’s office] detailing the harsh treatment that they had received from Vaughan … ”
Why did The Bulletin sit on this story? Why did it fail to print anything about the sexual discrimination issue even after it was brought up at a League of Women Voters candidates’ forum in April?
Bulletin Editor John Costa didn’t return a call from Source Managing Editor Eric Flowers seeking an explanation, and I’m reluctant to speculate. But based on the paper’s handling (or, rather, non-handling) of the story as well as the whiny post-election editorial, I sense a haughty attitude of “the news is what we say it is.”