Friday, October 28, 2016

City Leaders Play Political Football with Popular Kids' Sports Program

The Commercial Appeal article on this subject is found here: 

Germantown political endorsement prompts warning 

I commend Daniel Connolly for the way he covered this story in the Commercial Appeal. David Nischwitz, a candidate for alderman opposing Rocky Janda, is a volunteer football coach for the Germantown Football League, and the GFL President, Broc Kreitz, wrote a letter endorsing him. The email was inappropriate because it was written possibly using the GFL mailing list and definitely with the GFL logo.  (PLEASE NOTE: Although it was charged that the mailing list was used, the Board retraction says that its mailing list was not used. It is possible that Mr Nischwitz got the email addresses from another source, such as other coaches who are friends of Mr. Nischwitz. The term "friend of GFL" was used in the original letter.)  In any case, it looked as if the GFL was officially making the endorsement due to the letterhead, rather than Kreitz making a personal endorsement. The Germantown Football League is a non-profit organization and thus they are not allowed to use their organization to endorse candidates, without compromising their (501)c3 status. The guy made a mistake, for sure.

Here is the letter. 

The Germantown Football League was asked by the city leaders to send out a letter disavowing an endorsement of Nischwitz. Entirely appropriately, the GFL sent out email to correct the situation:  

This was not enough for the City leaders, as they had previously prepared a PRESS PACKET ready to hand to Daniel Connolly after the BMA meeting this past Monday. They claimed that not only was this email putting the GFL tax status in jeopardy, but it was violating a city contract and somehow this would have negative repercussions for the City itself because a federal law was violated. In fact, by alerting the press to this, are our City leaders not increasing the chances that the IRS actually does look into the tax status of GFL? Is that what they really want to risk?

Do our City leaders really feel that the GFL, an entirely separate organization from the city, which happens to have a contract with the city, can endanger Germantown by mistakenly using the GFL letterhead for a candidate endorsement?  And, if the city leaders feel that the City of Germantown is at some kind of risk, why seek publicity? Does that make sense?  Yes it does, but only if the goal is scoring "gotcha" points.  

If the City was not reprimanded over Patrick Lawton's statement that he would quit if George Brogden won in the 2014 election, how in the world could GFL's email and subsequent retraction cause the City any harm?

I give the likelihoood of the City of Germantown suffering due to the mistaken GFL email in question about as high as Justin Timberlake's going to jail because he took a selfie in the voting booth. 

This leads me to this talk of the town now in Germantown: 

Needless to say, Justin got a pass (love him). 

Anyway, the City leaders tried to score political points, and I believe they failed. We are smarter than they think. They didn't fail because they sought corrective action--that was appropriate. What was inappropriate was the publicity seeking, shaming a popular leader of sports in the City for the world to see.  

Why are our City leaders humiliating Broc Kreitz? Here is why: They are fully aware there are many Germantown citizens who are riled up about revelations that Patrick Lawton knew about his car allowance as he was using a city-issued car.  The Mayor feared at Monday's BMA meeting there would be with an onslought of angry citizens wanting to be heard.  He had no reason to be concerned. There actually were two "Citizens to be Heard". Neither spoke about Mr. Lawton. One was Shirley Hahn talking about the selection of the school site, and another was a woman vociferously complaining about the GFL letterhead on a Nischwitz endorsement, acting gleefully about the possibilty that the organization might lose its tax status. 

In his preliminary remarks before the "Citizens to Be Heard" agenda item, the Mayor added a mini lecture stating that anything about a city employee that was gossip, hearsay, or defamatory is not allowed. You can listen to this at the 11:00 minute mark in this archived video.  Obviously he was prepared to stifle any possible discussion of the auto allowance, and he used the GFL incident to deflect attention in the event that angry citizens appeared in mass to demand an outside investigation of the Patrick Lawton auto allowance incident.

So where is the official City statement about the revelation that Patrick Lawton had knowledge of the car allowance as he was ready to get a city issued car?  Crickets!   

Our City Administrator, for six years, received a car allowance while simultaneously driving a city-owned vehicle. When caught, Mr. Lawton represented to the Commercial Appeal that he had been unaware of this double dipping. Yet, as Mr. Lawton's email to Kristen Geiger shows, he was well aware of his own car allowance. 

So, how do our city leaders respond to this new revelation? Do they express concern that Mr. Lawton's explanation, which they so eagerly had accepted, has turned out to be squarely contradicted by an email whose authenticity is not in dispute?  Do they commission an investigation into Mr. Lawton's conduct?  No, our leaders seek to deflect attention from the conduct of the city's highest paid official by humiliating a football coach who made a mistake.

I don't know Broc Kreitz, and have no kids the age to play youth football. But he is well loved by parents of children in the program, and they are not happy by the way this was handled by the City leaders.  

Just as an aside, I am not sure why the aldermen using the water bill email addresses for campaign purposes was not against the law. The aldermen are CITY EMPLOYEES. They identify themselves as being sitting aldermen (city employees) in their emails. They used city emails obtained through Tennessee open records request laws. Although they did not use the city logo, they did use a statement similar to this in these emails: "You are receiving this email because you expressed an interest in Germantown." This identifies the emails as being officially from the city in the eyes of the most citizens. Maybe if I had the resources I could just ask my attorneys to look into this. Maybe if I had the resources I could ask my PR department to prepare a press packet! But then, I don't really have the luxury of the use of our tax dollars to pursue this. 

Links to Past Shining a Light on Germantown Posts

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