Allow me to make this very clear:
It was alleged online in a social media posting that the Ross County Auditor paid the Guardian — and me — “$5,000 to publish a wrong list of delinquent property taxes.”
I’m going to set the record straight because that’s what we do here.
The state law requires that the county publish a list of delinquent property taxes in the news media. Historically, in Ross County, that list has been published in the Gazette. Last year, the Gazette tried to charge the county $30,000 to publish this list. This year, the Gazette was quoted at around $15,000. Now, don’t take this the wrong way: the journalists that were employed by the Gazette produced great journalism. Currently, they have zero reporters, locally. My issue is not with the journalists, but more so, with the parent company that charges taxpayers such an exuberant amount of money each year.
That is why, this year, I met with the Ross County Auditor and made a proposal to allow the Guardian to publish the annual list at half the cost of the Gazette; we were going to only charge $10,000, and most of that would be spent on merely covering our costs.
I authorized our lawyers to look into the legality of allowing us to publish the list. Much to the displeasure of many, case law and state law says we were qualified. The Ross County Auditor agreed to go with the Guardian this year instead of the Gazette. In his decision, the Auditor told me that he was doing so to save taxpayers money and to ensure that the most updated list was printed. See, the Gazette requires the list to be submitted to them three days before printing. We, on the other hand, only need it the night before. The Auditor was elated with this information because he said that each year, taxpayers will call his office angrily wanting to know why their name appeared in the newspaper on Friday when they paid their taxes on Thursday. The answer is clear: the Gazette requires the list on Wednesday, a day before the state tax deadline. Thus, the list that is printed is not “the true list.”
When the Auditor worked with the County Treasurer to produce the annual list to submit to us, the Treasurer, for whatever reason, bucked the Auditor and demanded the list run with the Gazette. In fact, the Treasurer sent emails stating he didn’t think the Guardian fit the legal requirements. Much to his dissatisfaction, we do. Perhaps he should let someone with an education, let alone a law degree make legal decisions.
Nevertheless, the Auditor had his hands tied; he has to work with the Treasurer to produce the list and as you can imagine, working with someone who doesn’t want to work with you has to be like trying to contain a feral cat in a burlap bag.
In the end, the Gazette ran the list, to the tune of $15,000, and as always, ran an outdated list; neither of these would have been the case with the Guardian. We did, however, run an identical list, for free, because the list that was submitted to us, was submitted fairly at the same time it was submitted to the Gazette.
The Guardian receives millions of visits a month and we appreciate each one of them. As a result of our popularity, many people whose names appear on the list were upset to see their names. Naturally, they called the county to ask why this was the case since they paid their bills on the deadline? We have, on multiple recordings, the Treasurer’s office telling taxpayers that “The Guardian ran the wrong list.” — no, we ran the same list that the Gazette ran, but the list was three days old… because the Treasurer threw a tantrum. Their upset should not be with us, but rather, with the person responsible. I will not tolerate slanderous lies being told about us, especially from a taxpayer-funded office.
On Monday, the Treasurer accused the Guardian of not printing his statement. He said we did not inform readers that he personally purchased controversial ornaments, but that simply is not true; facts matter, Treasurer.
Why the County Treasurer thinks it was okay to run the list with an outlet that cost taxpayers more money (he thinks we don’t meet the legal requirements but we do), and why he thinks it’s okay to spend $433 on a Christmas tree; and why he thinks it’s okay to display partisan politics on that tree or lie about the inclusion of his side of the story, is far beyond my comprehension or the time I wish to spend on such mental strain trying to piece the “logic” together.
But if I see a comment like the one I saw today claiming the Auditor “paid the Guardian to run a false list” again, you can bet I’ll set the record straight, because that’s what we do here. Facts are real.