Among the most important roles of a news organization is ensuring that public officials are free of conflicts of interest. It’s one way of knowing our leaders are motivated by what’s best for our community, and not their own self interests.
We must always demand the same of our journalists, as well.
Unfortunately, we failed to uphold this standard in a column published March 9. We’re sorry, and I’m writing today to explain what happened and what we’re doing about it.
We recently learned that John Beaudoin, former Journal editor and publisher with a commendable passion for Lee’s Summit and an earnest desire to see the community thrive, is being paid by a local political action committee that was formed for the upcoming municipal election.
The committee, Foundations for Our Future PAC, has paid John to do marketing and public relations around its endorsements in the April 3 races.
Although John does not sit on the PAC board and didn’t participate in deciding its endorsements, the financial relationship, which John did not disclose to us or Journal readers, is in our view a violation of our Code of Ethics and should have disqualified him from writing about the election, the subject of his March 9 column.
In addition, John submitted a photo for publication with the March 9 column of campaign signs in his yard, including a prominently placed one for one of the candidates endorsed by Foundations for Our Future PAC. Even without knowing of John’s financial relationship with the PAC or that the photo was from John’s yard, it was an error in judgment on my part to use the photo, which subsequently has been swapped out online, because it could be perceived as an unintended endorsement.
Again, I apologize.
As a result of his conflict of interest, John will no longer write for the Journal.
I do want to voice my support for the primary message of John’s column, which implored Lee’s Summit citizens to engage in the process and learn about the candidates — for mayor, city council and the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District board — in an effort to make an informed decision. If the city council and school board turmoil of recent years has taught us anything, it’s that we all need to educate ourselves in hopes of electing thoughtful leaders who will shape the community’s future in a positive way.
We have valued John’s contributions to the Journal. We thank him and wish him well. While the decision to stop running his column is difficult, it’s essential so we can ensure you and all our readers have absolute confidence in the Journal’s integrity and credibility.
Tod Palmer is the Suburbans Editor for The Star in charge of the Lee’s Summit Journal, Cass County Democrat, The Olathe News and other zone publications.