Friday, February 21, 2014

Benol Bashes Media For Journalistic Malpractice

In a rambling diatribe at the end of last night's Northampton County Council meeting, Mat Benol lashed out at the media, warning the public not to rely on what they read in the newspapers. He added that if they have questions, they should give him a call.

Benol is a newly elected member of Council, one of five Republicans swept into office after November's election. He has never held government office before, though he ran and lost in the GOP primary against Congressman Charlie Dent in 2010. He is also a past Chair of the LV Tea Party.

What set him off was the public outcry that followed Executive John Brown's proposal to hire Deana Zosky as a $715,200 business management consultant. That contract required Council approval. Somebody leaked it to the daily newspapers as well as this blog on February 14, two days after it was provided to Council. The Morning Call broke this story, quickly followed by The Express Times and this blog. I linked to the contract itself. Benol was angry that when he returned home from work that day and received a call from a reporter, he knew nothing about it.

So naturally, that was the press' fault.

Brown declined comment at the time this story broke to any media outlet, though he later had a news conference to discuss the merits of his proposal.

Last night, Benol informally suggested that Council members impose a 48-hour news blackout on communications from the Executive, although the Zosky communication was already 48-hours at the time it was leaked.

"I can't sit here the next four years and let the media dictate what we discuss," he huffed.

Benol, who supported the Zosky contract, complained that there were inaccuracies in the media coverage, though he failed to specify what those were. He also objected to the depiction of the contract as a $715,200 contract, calling this "journalistic malpractice". He explained that the annual price is much cheaper.

All reporting concering this contract, both here and in the two dailies, specified the contract price year by year, as well as a 30-day escape clause. But it is a $715,200 contract, and that price could be much higher because the County also agreed to pay unspecified IT costs for the implementation of dashboard software.

While denying that he is "trying to end transparency", Benol complained that stories that just happen on Friday are now appearing in the paper on Saturday.

He went on to chastise a Council member, without naming him or her, for participating in a blog discussion of the proposed contract. He failed to explain why participating in a public discussion is improper.

In addition to stating, "I don't trust the media anymore," Benol expressed some suspicion of fellow Council members. "How do I freely express myself?" he worried. "I shouldn't have to be hesitant to reach out to fellow Council members.

Benol then argued that he and other Council members "should be able to have private conversations behind the scenes," which they would disclose after they vote on the matter.

Glenn Geissinger, another newly elected Council member and supporter of the Zosky deal, echoed Benol. But faintly.

Lamont McClure remembered that he and other Council members were forced to go to "Sunshine Act camp" some years ago in a settlement deal reached in a suit filed by this very blogger. He suggested  Benol read the packet of information that was supplied to him at that time.

"There are no secrets in politics," added council President Peg Ferraro.

More than anything else, this is a hissy fit by Benol. Because he didn't get his way on the Zosky contract, he blames the press. After the meeting, Benol claimed that marking this $715,200 proposal "confidential" should have been enough to keep the public from seeing a matter being voted on in the next six days. "I have lawyers working on it" he told me.

Good luck with that.

Maybe he should try holding his breath.

The second the Executive submitted this proposal to the people's representatives, it became something the public had a right to know. Instead of blaming the press for doing its job, a transparent Mat Benol would have participated in the discussion and let the cream rise to the top. Instead, he'd rather hide behind closed doors, where democracy dies and cockroaches thrive.

(Blogger's Note: When the video of this meeting becomes available, I intend to transcribe his comments, some of which he denied making after last night's meeting. Maybe the video will be wrong, too).

Updated   2:30 pm: You can see and hear the Benol rant on the County's web page now, at least until Benol decides that the public should be shut out of that process too. Here are excerpts of his little temper tantrum. he actually complained that the proposed contract, which had been in Council's hands for two days and would be voted in in the next week, was on this blog.

"I don't trust the media anymore. I think the media has an agenda, they put it our there very specifically. We have to fight that false opinion that's being created instead of having an open and honest dialogue. So what I've asked the Solicitors to do, is to start looking into, under the Right-to-Know laws, what part of our correspondence is considered private, if at all. And I'm not trying to end transparency. I just think that while something is in deliberation, we should have the ability to confer amongst ourselves, openly and honestly. Once those deliberations are over and the resolution is passed, then it's fair game, the public should see it. I'm certainly not trying to say that the public shouldn't see what we're discussing. I just think it hampers the efforts because again, in the Finance meeting, there were a lot of good ideas that came out that could have been resolved with simple conversations.

"We should have the debates here, I'm not saying that we shouldn't. But we should have the ability to confer because I'll be the first one to admit I am new to this game. I don't know everything that goes on and maybe I'mshooting myself in the foot by bringing this up now. But I shouldn't have to be hesitant of reaching out to my fellow Council members, especially ones who have spent eight years on Council, to solicit their opinion. ...

"So that's my concern and i just want to get it thrown out there in a public session and to the public, if this is going to get reported. Don't let the media drive your opinions. Please call us, any one of us, our numbers are out there. Remember, you elected us. Technically, we work for you. We will answer your questions. Don't rely on what you read in the papers.."

He complains about the media gaining access to information before him.

"Why should they have their hands on [a contract] before we have a chance to look at it? And I understand that that's the 500 pond gorilla in the room. ... ."

"I don't think they [the media] should generate the story. And I'll go back to the consultant. What I heard from people who called me is they were focused on the dollar amount. Everybody kept focusing on that seven hundred and some odd thousand dollars. But it wasn't broken down over four years. The comments that come out from us were different from what you saw there. They were educated comments. Not one of those educated comments was put in the print media because they were in such a rush to generate the story, where it comes out that you're almost committing journalistic malpractice."

40 comments:

Rich Fegley said...

I don't like politicians. Look at what they are doing? Thankfully bloggers like O'Hare and Molovinsky share their perspective, as-they-see-it. The main-stream-media is filtered by the editors and financial contributors to those institutions.

What are our politicians doing that is so secretive? What should the media and the public not be privy to? If the media exaggerated contract dollars that is one thing. The total number was a real number.

If politicians would come up with well thought out plans they would not get stopped like this plan to hire a contractor to make a plan. This plan to simply hire someone else to do the work that they were elected to do.

I guess I should run for Mayor of Allentown if this is what politicians can do. Once I'm elected Mayor, I will hire someone to do my work (Managing Director?) and I will cut ribbons and make deals with my politically tied friends.

Let's be honest. This is how they play their game.

Con't we do better than this? Can't we change the system?

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Dashboard Brown politics.

Anonymous said...

Have a cup of tea Mat and simmer down.

Anonymous said...

Did he really say that? Son of a bitch! Everyone I vote for turns out to be a bum or an asshole. Not really shore Benol lies within this one.

Anonymous said...

Now Bernie, you can't be surprised by this. This is standard tea party right wing concern. Anything you don't like is a conspiracy, especially the left-wing progressive mainstream media.

Didn't you know they only do this to Republicans(especially the really good ones).

They check their socialist progressive handbooks for how to sabotage Republican politicians and then await their signal from liberal central control. Once engaged they stop at nothing to destroy or at least derail real American heroes like Benol. Giesinger and Brown.

These poor guys. they are going to have a long four years.

Bad blog, bad media, bad!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:21, You're going to have to call Mat and find out bc everything I write is apparently a lie. The drones tell me what to write. I've got news for Mat. He's not the boss of me. If he doesn't like what i write or the newspapers are saying, he can start a blog of his own or hire a $715,200 media consultant to spin the truth.

Anonymous said...

Thank God someone is keeping the lunatics from completely taking over the asylum. Keep up the good work Bernie.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rich, We're not all like Benol. Some of us that are elected officials are trying mightily to combat the Benol's of the political world and their way of doing the peoples business. It is an uphill battle but we still fight on against his mind set and lack of transparency. Secrecy is a way of life in politics that is very hard to overcome as it is ingrained in the system and is the SOP for many in power. We are not all of his stripe.

Anonymous said...

I voted for these guys and now I think I want a do over on the past November elections.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Fegley, are you registered D? If so why not run in the primary if Rob McCord wins and gives King Edwin a patronage job in Harrisburg? The thought of Sam Bennett or Julio Guridy being in charge is pretty scary to me.

Anonymous said...

are council these people in a contest to see which one can make the biggest fool of themselves?

Anonymous said...

There is always a learning curve and it is evident that things are a bit rough right now. Benol should never have been elected but he's here and we got to deal with the inanity of his radical views. This will sort itself out and improvements and solid ideas will arrive. Patience..

Anonymous said...

Wow, Benol shows his youthful inexperience in being in politics. A rant about the press. He ought to pull up his big boy pants and learn how to serve and what it really means to serve instead of tea bagger ideology. IMHO

Anonymous said...

The people elected the Hawks to mind the hen house. Good job Northampton County Voters.

Anonymous said...

Benol also tried to get an appointment to the Easton school board. Thank GOD that didnt work for him

Anonymous said...

Bernie
This contract deal reeks. What Brown is indicating is in all of Northampton County there's not a single talented CPA to do this work. Why aren't taxpayers outraged?

Anonymous said...

"He explained that the annual price is much cheaper."

I'll bet the daily price is cheaper still.

Been in, or around, public life for years. this gentleman evidently has a very steep learning curve ahead of him. (HINT: next time label a proposal "super-dooper double-dog top secret"). that won't help either.

and Captain Nemo called. He wants his goatee back

Anonymous said...

"I will cut ribbons and make deals with my politically tied friends."

like the government assistance to locate Brewworks in Allentown?

Anonymous said...

The tea party. Always the same, always useless. We want sunshine in politics unless its our deal, then we want behind the scenes smoke filled rooms. Everything everyone does is bad unless its us and then we are different. SAVE TAXPAYERS money, unless its a $715,000 no bid contract that no one understands....then it's the media's fault.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, I forgot the part about the YEARLY cost being much cheaper. I forgot, mathematics needs to be explained to the uneducated masses and the media. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

He doesn't trust the media? Wow, that sucks given the First Amendment and the very foundation of the Constitution and all. You know what? I don't trust Tea Party stooges who live in a hermetically sealed bubble echo chamber either.

You were elected to govern not destroy government.

Anonymous said...

I believe Matt is saying he does not like being blindsided. I for one do not blame him. He is not looking to keep secrets.....he believes he should have the knowledge of a proposal before the newspapers. Or at least at the same time. In the time it takes to get the story in the paper council should all know what is coming. Why is that wrong? It's not as if the paper gets it out instantly.

Stop making a mountain out of a molehill...as usual.

So he's married to a woman, he raises his children to be good members of society, he coaches children, he works for every penny he gets and oh okay he is the bad guy. You people should be so lucky. He expects his child to be self sufficient and responsible but he can't expect that from so called adults?

Hello Barack Obama....you have certainly found your following.

Anonymous said...

He should bash John Brown (or Tom Harp his Director of Administration) for not picking up the phone and calling him to talk about the proposal. How do you not communicate a proposal of this magnitude to a council member of your own party?

Anonymous said...

This whole thing is do to our county being run by neophytes with no experience. JB should have met with all county council members individually to discuss his proposal, not only because it was a huge investment (with minimal ROI in my opinion) but also because it was his first real program that he wanted to put forth. He needed to involve council upfront, not on the back end. You see his "experience" as a Borough Mayor means little. Regardless of his campaign rhetoric a Borough Mayor has only one administrative function, they are in charge of the police department. As a resident don't even ask me to go there. The plan was also incomplete because he should have also had a full outline of where he intended to pay for this lucrative contract. The rest of the lack of experience goes right to the County Council member who thinks he can take on the press and the bloggers. Grow up, this is the real world and you are now in the proverbial glass house. Read your materials and be prepared.

Anonymous said...

949 stop being a jackass! Generalizations of democrats are a right wing nut's favorite thing. Get a clue!

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:49, Benol railed at the press a good 15 minutes. It is not their fault that he is too lazy to check his email and do what he was elected to do. According to Benol, the public has no right to even see the terms of a $712,000 contract that they are considering. The public has no right to know about their spending plans. That's baloney. Once the Exec submitted that contract to Council, who are the people, it fell into the people's realm. He railed on at the press quite a bit. What really set him off is that his plan to waster public tax dollars blew up in his face, and he looked like a fool and a hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

"Hello Barack Obama....you have certainly found your following."


And there it is again. One of the losing county council candidates said the thing that bothered them the most was that it seemed the republican county people were running against Obama rather than for county office.

These tea parterres and some other republicans hate Obama so much that is their only driving force in life.

What the hell does Barak Obama have to do with a dumb move on a contract by the county executive? You guys need to put away the silly costumes, stop reading the conspiracy books, turn off Hannity and read the home rule charter and review the laws and regulations governing county responsibilities.

His rant was typical of a newbie and he may grow out of it or not. If he thinks there are any big secrets in government he is to naïve to serve.

Sorry Mrs.. Benol, no disrespect intended.

Anonymous said...

9:49 is Matt trying to defuse his stupidity by posing as a anon reader.

Anonymous said...

Matt, welcome to the big time! Pull up your diaper and do your homework. That's what we elected you for. Not to throw a tantrum.

Anonymous said...

And I'm not trying to end transparency. I just think that while something is in deliberation, we should have the ability to confer amongst ourselves, openly and honestly.

Where is George Carlin when you need him. Am I the only one who sees the inane thought process?

Not trying to end transparency - just want to keep it a secret until we decide how we are voting.

...confer amongst ourselves, openly and honestly - because we won't be open and honest with the public.

BENOL NEEDS SUNSHINE CAMP BEFORE HE GETS HIS ASS SUED IN THE FUTURE.

Ovem Lupo Commitere said...

His campaign letter said: "I will help lead our county into the future with a clear, concise system of accountability, management and fiscal responsibility." As I am sure his solicitor will tell him, there is a difference between having materials to review before the public does, and getting answers to questions, is different than "deliberating openly and honestly." Deliberation and voting is public. More than a quorum deliberating ahead of time (including electronic via personal email, which can be subject to RTK requests, FYI) is a no-no unless you have legally valid reasons to be in a true executive session. How does he define a "clear, concise system of accountability",if the public has no knowledge to base input until after Council has voted. It is too late at that point, contract is already approved.

Likewise, he said at the meeting "Don't let the media drive your opinions. Please call us, any one of us, our numbers are out there. Remember, you elected us." Call to say what, hi? Again, if "you who elected us" doesn't even know what you are "deliberating openly and honestly" on out of the public eye, because you sent your tax paid solicitor to chase after the press, what are "we" supposed to call you about?

"We have to fight that false opinion that's being created". Solution? More transparency, not less.

Back to the big picture: Brown and the new council majority were elected to do a job. Hiring high priced "consultants" before they even leave the gates makes them look like they weren't really ready to do their jobs. Campaigns are different than real governance.

Anonymous said...

What did you expect when you decided to vote for,
Mandrake the magician!

Anonymous said...

Thank you tea party.

What did you think would happen when you elect adults that are still in to cosplay?

Anonymous said...

The tea party is no party for thinkers.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Ok, I don't know this man,Never met him, even though I'm an accused Tea Party Member. My politics are far right sometimes of the TEA PARTY when it comes to handouts to the lazy,believe me I would let the lazy fail and fade away.On the other hand I have personally given food and cash ,paid a tuition at NCC and provided transportation to some people that need 'just a pull off the ground' to get started. I say WAIT < and don't judge this young man in the first weeks of is obligation. I will bet he is somebodies great neighbor,a great husband and father and articulate at his profession. WAIT!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

4:31. Or both

Peter J.Cochran said...

Anon 4;31 your up early , do you deliver newspapers or are you so distraught because of your personal life ?Seek counselling. You make derogatory remarks and your skeleton has no name? Please site what part is bullshit? WE need to have patients and wait for some time to pass.I bet he lives better than you do and you know it ,so you are frustrated and have contempt!This solves or proves nothing.POST YOUR NAME and "come out".

Peter J.Cochran said...

Anon 4;09 You got me on the spelling error that STILL lacks your name and then you accuse me and call me a coward!Wonderful!! No logic in the two.Way are you afraid of siting 'threats"or untruthful statements ?I believe 3 times you have recently not produced any evidence of your accusations. I NEVER threatened - any one in my life .I hate no one. Just don't call back after you go on shift tonight. Spent time on something productive . Walk your dog or your kids, forgetaboutit!Stick to the big picture.I am not an issue, but merely a simple voting tax payer.Good by!

Anonymous said...

@BOH 1:33 PM

"...he looked like a fool and a hypocrite."

Um, that's because he IS a fool and a hypocrite.

Like just about every member of the tea party movement. (Who are largely a bunch of folks on Medicare who bought their houses with help from Fannie Mae/Mac and sent their kids to college with the help of federal grants and loans, but bemoan what others might get from the government. 'Cause the USA is for white folks like them only, don'tcha know.)