Last week, News Journal reporter Jessica Bies came out with an article about a confidential report that the News Journal “obtained”. The article was rife with speculation and hearsay based on a report commissioned by State Auditor Tom Wagner concerning Kathleen Davies. That article appeared in print today. It looks like something you would see in a bargain-basement tabloid at a grocery store.
It is not a state secret Kathleen Davies was put on paid administrative leave in 2016. But the way the News Journal has covered this has been nothing short of tabloid journalism.
They came out with an article two years ago based on “whistleblowers” which could have only come from the Auditor of Accounts office. Written by reporters James Fisher and Matthew Albright, it claimed Davies was abusing state funds with travel reimbursements. Even though audits that have come out since that clearly state there are two forms of reimbursement for travel expenses. At some point over the years, they removed Albright’s name and put a tag at the bottom of the article that he “contributed“. Fisher is no longer with the News Journal but Albright is.
Now it appears they are using a young reporter in the form of Jessica Bies. When I say “use“, I don’t put that term out there lightly. Bies is their education reporter. Why they would assign her an article on a state auditor race is beyond me. I firmly believe she is looking to make a name for herself and she is being given directions on how her articles on Davies should unfold.
The fact that I provided Bies crucial information two days before her article appeared online and her intentional ignorance of those facts shows a clear lack of journalistic ethics. I get it. She is young and she wants to be Delaware’s version of Lois Lane. But she is not. She comes across looking like Geraldo Rivera when he opened Al Capone’s empty vault in 1986. She relies on one side of a story and assumes it is right because that is where the power is. She doesn’t do investigative probing at all. This is just my opinion, but given the Democrat power base wants Kathy McGuiness to win the election for State Auditor, the News Journal feels obligated to pamper to them. Bies can write about independence in the Auditor of Accounts office all she wants but the media she works for is VERY dependent on feeding the beast.
Bies doesn’t realize how this really is. Dennis Williams spouts off constantly about independence. What they don’t print is no one wanted to endorse Dennis Williams. McGuiness is okay with Dennis Williams spouting off because she knows he doesn’t have a chance to win. She loves the fact that Dennis Williams is doing her dirty work. While the News Journal constantly lists McGuiness’ prized endorsements, they don’t go off on her about it. But they let Dennis Williams rail on Davies about her endorsements.
Even the pictures they put in the articles show bias towards McGuiness. They put pictures of her smiling for the camera while they go out of their way to find the worst possible shots of Davies. Such as the Grant Thornton report article they put into print today, a week after it appeared online.
The title of the print article is very misleading. “Report: State Auditor Hopeful Abused Her Post.” Yes, that oh so very important report that was not even submitted into evidence for Davies’ unemployment hearing. The same report that Wagner’s office had the ability to edit. I will know for sure when I receive a FOIA response back from the Auditor of Accounts office. I submitted a FOIA request for the contract on Grant Thornton on August 7th. The same report that I highly doubt will be used in Davies’ Merit Employee Review Board hearings for the same reasons it wasn’t used in the unemployment hearing. But Bies runs around thinking this report is the next Pentagon Papers. It is a flawed report that Delaware taxpayers spent over $120,000 on that is of no use to anyone.
There is also the matter of someone leaking the report to Bies. Given that this report was commissioned by Wagner’s office, it could have only come from that office. I have no doubt it will come out eventually that someone leaked it. Someone will take the fall for this. It won’t be Wagner. He will come out of this looking squeaky clean. Will it be Wagner’s assistant, John Fluharty? I doubt it. The former Executive Director of the Delaware Republican party who once turned down a post in the Trump administration has too much power and pull. So who will it be?
My guess would be Andrena Burd, an Audit Manager at Tom Wagner’s office. The employee who started all this. The one who was recording Davies every chance she could with no authorization or direction to do so. The one who had just been promoted to Audit Manager for the Unit-Count audit that caused so many problems with the Delaware DOE because they wanted to control that performance audit. Burd sided with the DOE over her own superior. But if she voiced those concerns to Tom Wagner, he still signed off on the original unit count audit when it was released in May of 2016. It was only after he put Davies on leave that he pulled it. Don’t get me wrong, I think Fluharty is just as responsible as Burd in creating the witch hunt against Davies, but Burd will take the fall. This is a clear example of the old phrase “be careful what you wish for“.
Meanwhile, Bies continues to drag Davies through tabloid journalism muck. She refuses to dig into the fact that so many of McGuiness’ donations are from out of state Republicans. She won’t dare touch on McGuiness’ endorsements. Especially the big one that is based on political favors for the Delaware AFL-CIO. Why? Because that would tick off her bosses and the political power structure that want McGuiness in that office.
It isn’t just Davies that is a continual target of Bies. State Rep. Kim Williams also has a bulls eye. If Bies had an ounce of investigative muster inside her, she would know that the situation with the petty cash audit was explained by Rep. Williams over two years ago. But because it was a comment on a blog, I suppose that doesn’t pass her taste test. For the record, this is why Rep. Williams knew the title of the petty cash audit.
Last September I went to the Auditor’s Office about some concerns I had about a certain charter school petty cash account, I had seen something on the online checkbook. The Auditor’s Office investigated and was doing an audit. The petty cash audit report was getting close to completion. In March I had approved a comment from me that would be placed in the audit.
Rep. Williams would have known the title of the audit in order to approve a comment for it. This isn’t rocket science here. But no one seems to mention that very important detail. Yes, Rep. Williams supports Davies. So do many other legislators, teachers, parents, citizens, and financial watchdogs in Delaware. They know Davies is clearly the most qualified for the job and she was railroaded out of the office because she was doing her job. But Bies hangs on that like it is the weight of the world while ignoring the fact that McGuiness’ pal Pete Schwartzkopf is cutting deals and giving political favors for her endorsements. Rep. Williams has always been crystal clear about her efforts and legislation to promote more financial transparency in Delaware.
Bies doesn’t write for the average Delawarean. She caters to the old status quo crowd in Delaware that believes in the crusty “Delaware Way” as the only option. The same mantra that believes regular citizens are beneath them and only the power elite can decide what is best for the state. Backdoor meetings are okay under this philosophy because us little people shouldn’t be a part of the conversation. These are the same power brokers who advertise the most in the News Journal so of course the owners of the paper have to curry to those advertisers.
This is also why most Delawareans look at the News Journal as a joke and many refer to it as “The News Urinal“. They blast candidates who don’t subscribe to the Delaware Way point of view and wind up praising candidates like McGuiness who is all about that mantra. Their readership is going down so they fall victim to the same tactics employed by other media in our country, tabloid journalism.
What the News Journal has done is nothing short of incredible though. In their vain attempts to smear Davies, it has put her in front of the pack for the State Auditor race. She has risen from a dark horse to the lead in the race. The more they write about her, the more supporters she gets. Because the people see through the tabloid journalism. They see the “Delaware Way” in action and they are sick of it. Those voices are increasing and the News Journal doesn’t know how to handle it. As a result, they cater to the power in Delaware as if that is what will keep their newspaper afloat.
It is the blogs in Delaware that carry more weight with the people because they fight against the clear biases that come out in our regular media. While Delaware bloggers don’t always agree, there is an essential truth to all of them- we are all attempting to shed light on things that normally wouldn’t see the light of day. It is because of media like the News Journal, who are morally compromised and tainted, that blogs even exist. While blogs saw their peak ten years ago, they are on the rise again and the News Journal struggles to keep up.
One day, when Bies’ journalistic house of cards begins to crumble and she realizes she was used just as James Fisher was back in 2016, it is my fervent hope she leaves the News Journal and seeks more credibility elsewhere. Until then, I expect more of the same from Bies.