Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pro-Brainard Carmel Newspaper First Conducted Investigation of Libman; Newspaper Turned Over Findings to Mayor's Office for Further Investigation Which Resulted in "Confrontation"

Carmel residents know "The Current" as a local newspaper devoted to promoting Mayor Jim Brainard and his agenda.  The paper's executive vice president is Steve Greenberg, Brainard's former campaign manager.  In a recent edition, the newspaper details how how it worked with Mayor Brainard to trap Carmel's Center for the Arts CEO Steven Libman in a Cheaters style scandal:
The first domino fell in mid-May when, on the heels of the April 30 issues of Current, which broke news of high-profile acts coming to the Palladium, Libman instructed his staff not to speak to or provide information to Current. This action was later confirmed via e-mail by the center’s public relations manager, John Hughey.
“(Current Executive Vice President Steve Greenberg) and I thought that showed a flaw in judgment,” Current President Brian Kelly said. “How could the only medium to reach every address in the center’s own hometown be denied the opportunity to report the center’s news on the same footing with other media? We were appalled, and we wrote about the injustice Libman’s decision perpetrated on our readers.”
Steven Libman, Former CEO of Carmel's Performing Arts Center
Current long had heard unverified allegations of aggressive accounting and excessive spending of the center’s funds, but the financial information of the nonprofit charged with running the center, Carmel Performing Arts Foundation, is not available to the public. When it became clear Libman likely would request a greater subsidy for 2012 – perhaps up to $4 million in taxpayer money –Current hired a freelancer to investigate the center’s leadership and spending.

However, that investigation revealed a possible entirely different problem: Libman was, purportedly, having a romantic relationship with his assistant, a move which could put both the city and foundation at risk of lawsuits stemming from potential state and federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission violations. (Current is not publishing the woman’s name, because it does not reveal the identities of persons who may be victims of sexual crimes.)
Two months after launching its investigation, Current had “reached the end of its rather limited legal expertise,” according to Kelly. Concerned about the negative impact of running an as-yet incomplete story, Kelly and Greenberg decided to present the findings to the city.

“We never considered turning the information over to the city until we realized the damage that could be done to taxpayers and the center by running it prior to a more thorough investigation,” Kelly said. “Additionally, Steve and I had great concerns that criminal laws might have been violated and felt we had a legal obligation to turn over our information to appropriate city officials.
“We’ve always been extremely supportive of the center, and we always look for ways to protect our fellow taxpayers.”
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard
So much for journalistic ethics and objectivity.  The article continues:
According to Brainard, once the investigation reached a point “where there was absolutely no question that all the key facts had been confirmed,” he presented the findings to the foundation’s board, which immediately brought its executive committee together to discuss the issues.

After meeting with the executive committee of the board, Libman’s resignation was effective.  But then the Current is run by Steve Greenberg, the Mayor's former campaign manager.

The Confrontation

Libman and his now-former assistant were bound for Chicago on the morning of July 29, according to one of Current’s sources, when a caller from the executive board asked him to return to Carmel for a meeting. Libman then was confronted with evidence the city had collected in its investigation. He tendered his resignation shortly after 2:30 p.m.
I found the subheading used in the article to be curious.  Anyone who has watched the show "Cheaters," knows the climax of each episode is when the video surveillance is finally displayed to confirm the sexual affair.  The teaser used for that portion of the episode is called "The Confrontation."

The article goes to great efforts to discredit Libman's resume:
But Libman’s resignation in Carmel wasn’t his first. He now has resigned from three top executive positions with performing arts centers since 2004, and the reasons for his leaving previous employers are not entirely clear.
Talk about spin.  Libman's worked at  the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre from 1987-2004.  Working seventeen years employment with one employer is hardly the sign of an unstable and unwanted employee.  The Current though found an anonymous source who discredited Libman.
... a source from the area with knowledge of Libman’s tenure with the PBT said he had conflicts with personnel, too.

“There were financial and personal missteps along the way that led to his resignation,” said the source, who agreed to speak only on the condition of complete anonymity.
The man has been gone for seven years and they could find a single source willing to speak on the record?

At the other employment discussed in the article, as director of the La Jolla Playhouse, Libman worked for three years, (2006-2008), which is not a short tenure for someone in that type of leadership position.  Libman's stated reason for stepping down was to pursue an expanded consulting practice.  The Current though suspects his resignation must have been due to his being a bad manager.
Surprisingly the Current, even using sources that insist on "complete anonymity," couldn't even come up with another case of sexual misconduct by Libman in one of this other jobs.  People who have affairs in the workplace and/or commit sexual harassment usually display a pattern of such behavior. 

Clearly the Current, the Mayor's newspaper, engaged in tactics that smack of those used by Rupert Murdoch's News of the World publication.  Like that publication, questions need to be asked if the Current's reporters and editors broke the law in conducting its investigation of Libman.  After all, how did the newspaper obtain photographs or video of Libman and his alleged paramour that suggested a sexual affair was taking place, as sexual acts normally take place in private?  As noted in a previous post, video surveillance of a private area would be a crime.


Gary R. Welsh said...

What does it say about Brainard's judgment. Wasn't he in on the original decision to hire Libman for the job? It looks like he went trolling for negative comments about his work after the fact to justify his efforts to oust him when he realized he had lost control over him.

Paul K. Ogden said...

That's exactly what they did.