Monday, August 25, 2014

Star Matt Tully Should Be Fired for Not Disclosing Conflict of Interest in Column Advocating Mayor Ballard's Pre-K Program

Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana broke the news yesterday that Indianapolis Star columnist Matt Tully had a conflict of interest in penning his column advocating Indianapolis taxpayers endure yet another tax increase for the Mayor"s pre-K education program.  In Gary's piece he quotes at length Tully's column advocating the program, including a focus on Eli Lilly and Company's support for the program which will be run as a public-private partnership, which means private profits will be made off the public's money.  What Tully completely fails to mention in his column is his wife's key role in promoting the program as an employee of Lilly.  Gary though picks up on it:
Now here's what Tully didn't tell you but should have told you as an ethical journalist.
Star Columnist Matthew Tully
Tully's wife, Valerie Tully, is employed at Eli Lilly as a Global Public Policy Director where she is responsible for "reviewing legislative and administrative proposals to determine corporate position and enable external engagement in support of that position" according to her LinkedIn profile. In other words, she's paid to influence what supposed journalists like her husband communicate to us.

It gets better. It seems Valerie Tully also serves as chairman of the board of directors for the Day Nursery Association of Indiana, a nonprofit which operates eight Indianapolis area child care centers that provide day care and education services daily to more than 800 children. Day Nursery gets its funding from parent fees, federal Title XX funds, Child and Adult Care Food Program, Step Ahead councils, United Way, corporate and foundation grants and private donations according to the nonprofit's website. Suffice it to say that Day Nursery will be the recipient of any new tax dollars generated for Ballard's pre-K initiative. And did I mention that Jason Kloth, Mayor Ballard's deputy mayor for education, who was responsible for fashioning the administration's pre-K proposal, also sits on Day Nursery's board of director with Tully's wife? Conflict of interest? Any other questions?

UPDATE: Lilly executives Mike O'Connor and Robert Smith were guests on Amos Brown's radio talk show last week to pitch the pre-K tax and spend plan. O'Connor actually identifies the Day Nursery by name as providing the type of early childhood education that would be funded by the program. O'Connor, by the way, was one of the architects of Peterson's 65% local income tax increase that sank Peterson's re-election bid who once derisively referred to Ballard as a "jar head." He now has nothing but glowing comments for Ballard's tax and spend plan. Of course, O'Connor will be supporting Ballard's Democrat opponent next year and will be happy to see Ballard's knuckle head of an idea help sink his re-election bid.
For a reporter or columnist to not reveal a conflict of interest like that would be grounds for dismissal at most newspapers, or at the very least a harsh disciplinary action.  But this is the Indianapolis Star, a newspaper which consistently ignores journalistic ethics.  A couple years ago, I pointed out that the Star editors had grossly violated journalistic ethics in a CIB editorial:
"As CIB President Ann Lathrop noted Tuesday, the agency has built up reserves in part because it has large loans that will come due in the next few years. That starts in 2017 with $33.7 million that the city owes to private investors that helped initially with funding for Circle Centre mall and later Bankers Life Fieldhouse...."

What the Star's editors failed to disclose to its readers is that the owner of the Indianapolis Star, Gannet Co., Inc., is one of those private investors.  On September 13, 1994, Central Newspapers, Inc. approved investing $2.3 million into the Circle Centre Mall, which debt has been rolled into the debt on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.   In 2000, Gannett bought Central Newspapers.  Thus, Gannett is now one of those investors it was saying in the editorial needs to be paid back, even if it means higher property taxes for Indianapolis residents.
Under even the most forgiving standards of judicial ethics, the Indianapolis Star's editors at the very least had a duty to disclose in the editorial Gannett's ownership interest.
I guess Tully feels he has no reason to disclose conflicts of interest when Star editors ignore that responsibility themselves.

1 comment: said...

The Star never met an interest it couldn't conflict.