In an egregious breach of operational, organizational, and professional ethics, an unnamed government “official” inside Charlottesville City Hall selectively has divulged confidential and previously undisclosed information to local media.

Shortly after Carole Thorpe, chair of the Jefferson Area Tea Party (JATP), submitted a city application for the planned JATP “demonstration” in McGuffey Park this Friday, stories regarding the as-of-yet unapproved event appeared on the evening newscasts of both NBC 29 and the Newsplex.

Thorpe has filed a complaint with Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones (copied in full below), who responds that he “will be looking into the questions and issues” raised and hopes “to learn more in the next day or so.” ABMF4JQWACH4

Following is Carole Thorpe’s letter in its entirety:

From: Carole Thorpe
Subject: JATP Inquiry of Charlottesville City Government
Date: October 19, 2011 07:29:41 AM EDT

To:
Mr. Brian Daly, Director of Parks and Recreation
Mr. Maurice Jones, City Manager
Mr. S. Craig Brown, City Attorney

Sirs:

Yesterday, I mailed a completed application and the required $25.00 fee to the Parks and Recreation Department to request use of McGuffey Park by the Jefferson Area Tea Party (JATP) for a demonstration this Friday, October 21.  Typically, I submit such applications weeks in advance of our events, but I hoped – like the park application approved for Occupy Charlottesville – it might receive equally fast approval.  I called Events Coordinator Michelle Christian to notify her of the date so she could note it on her calendar, pending receipt of our application.  She told me I would likely receive a phone call about the status of our application sometime Wednesday.

Because approval was pending, I purposely chose to wait to publicly announce our demonstration.  It was the responsible thing to do and I thought it was my decision to make.  So, imagine how shocked and offended I was to watch reports on last night’s CBS-19 and NBC-29 six o’clock newscasts (citing information they said was given to them by an unnamed city representative) which disclosed that the JATP submitted an application for a demonstration to be held in McGuffey Park on Friday night.

Worse yet, CBS-19 also reported that our demonstration would be a counter-rally!  This is categorically UNTRUE. I called and spoke to that reporter less than an hour following the broadcast, and I was told the source of description of “counter-rally” came from a City representative.

I am appalled and livid by what I consider to be a dubious act conducted by someone in City government.  As a result, I am writing you with several inquiries for which I request immediate answers:

  1. Please clarify your official policy for handling event applications.
  2. Is it standard procedure to notify the media of applications submitted by organizations, whether pending or approved?  If not, what justified a breach of policy in this instance involving the JATP?
  3. Who is the person (or persons) who authorized notification of the media about our application?
  4. Who is the person (or persons) who failed to contact me to clarify the nature of our demonstration prior to erroneously telling the media it will be a counter-rally?
  5. What was the goal or intent of City government behind contacting the media with this information?
  6. Late yesterday afternoon, Michelle Christian left a phone message to say that a decision had been made to waive our $25.00 application fee.  Why?  She gave no reason, so what’s different now?  Please explain. Strangely, she never stated that our application had been officially approved – and we still await that confirmation.

In my opinion, this “leak” to the media was unjustified and unconscionable.  Furthermore, it recklessly placed me and the JATP in an awkward position.

Following the broadcasts, I rushed to make several phone calls to halt the spread of misinformation and prevent misunderstanding.  I called a representative with Occupy Charlottesville to ensure the group that the purpose of our demonstration is not nor was ever intended to be a counter-rally to their effort.  I am left to wonder what possible benefit City government could gain from an artificial friction between our groups?  I also placed calls to CBS-19, NBC-29, and other media outlets to implore them to correct the story.

In addition to your answers to the six questions posed above, I ask for two other reasonable actions from the City.

The first is an appropriate reprimand of the person or persons who created this mess.  And the second is for the City to issue a media release which includes a correction of its erroneous information and an apology to the JATP.

For the sake of transparency, I am copying various members of local media on this letter and ask that you copy all of these contacts when you reply to me.  I am certain they will be interested in pursuing the answers I seek if I do not hear from a City representative in a timely manner.

Respectfully,

Carole Thorpe, Chairwoman
Jefferson Area Tea Party

3 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not sure about this, but I believe that application was probably covered under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

    Personally I don’t think anyone should need a “permit” to engage in 1st amendment activity. At most all that should be required is “notice” to government officials that a group will be engaging in organized activity on taxpayer-supplied property.

    If you have to have permission to assemble peaceably, it’s a violation of your rights.

    The Bill of Rights is not a legitimate subject of regulation or limitation.

  2. Who would have requested this information through FOIA? How wuld they have known the information was there? This is clearly the work of a city “representative” that is trying to cause trouble. I am sure that garbage we have on Council supports these actions against the Tea Party. It is a shame that these people on Council. Twice a month they prove to the world that they are really too stupid to run this town.

  3. Cville Eye has it right, if there was a FOIA, it was only because an insider tipped off someone to file it. More likely it is being written right now to cover someones arse.

    One of the best, and scariest Schilling Shows ever today. Two hours of intensity.

    Sadly, Carole Thorpe’s letter reads like many I have sent to Maury Brown, Ron Price and Sally Thomas in the past at the County Building.

    Carole, don’t expect an answer, there is almost no one left who acts responsibly, is accountable, responsible or fair in their actions in our local county or city government offices. Too many are working to an agenda, not for the people.

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