May 26, 2008

Lorain (OH) Councilman’s Arrest Is a Group ‘Name That Party’ Failure

Also see the compare-and-contrast example in the final paragraph.

A city councilman in Lorain, Ohio, a city of about 75,000 west of Cleveland, was arrested during a prostitution sting on Friday.

Of the six stories I found covering the event (the Google News search is for May 22-26), only one referred to the political party of councilman Dennis Flores, who is a Democrat (scroll down to “Second Ward Council;” HT to an e-mailer).

The Cleveland Plain Dealer set the tone for ignoring Flores’s party ID, with a Saturday Breaking Metro Blog entry and Sunday story, which presumably made the print edition. Each story notes that Flores “serves as captain of his block watch.”

While two others who gave the story attention without providing a party identification for Flores could perhaps be excused because they only gave it five or six paragraphs (specifically, Cleveland’s WEWS and, writer Scott Allyn at the Morning Journal, whose main office is in Lorain, clearly had to go out of his way to avoid naming Flores’s party. In the process, he also failed to identify the party affiliation of the mayor and two other city council members:

(Mayor Anthony) Krasienko said he was disappointed in Councilman Flores.

”I believe that because we’re public officials, we’re held to a higher standard,” he said. ”You have to do everything you can to keep the public’s trust in mind. Councilman Flores has been a good advocate for his ward and many public projects. Unfortunately, this (Flores’ arrest) will overshadow a lot of good he had done for the community.”

Krasienko said his immediate staff knows they will be asked to resign if they are ever caught driving while intoxicated, or they’ll be fired.

”We have to do everything we can to retain the public’s trust and uphold the integerity of the offices we hold,” he said.

Lorain Councilman at large Dan Given said he was shocked by Flores’ arrest.

”I’m taken aback,” Given said. ”I have no idea what the next step is. He’ll have to have his day in court. For as long as I’ve been on council, nobody that I have served with has had any kind of run-in with the law.”

Lorain Councilwoman at large Anne Molnar said she would not ask Flores to step down from council.

”He made one mistake and none of us are perfect people,” Molnar said. ”He has to go to court and rectify it. I don’t like what he did, but I don’t feel he needs to step down. If it was a felony it would be a different story. But he has done a lot of good in the community.’

Jason Hawk at the Chronicle Telegram, which is based in Elyria, broke the ice early Sunday morning in the ninth paragraph of his 21-paragraph story. By doing so, he showed everyone before him, especially the Morning Journal, that Flores’s party affiliation has been a relevant factor all along, simply because his party has the problem of what to do about him:

But if Flores is convicted of solicitation, there could be tremendous political pressure for him to give up his seat, Lorain Democratic Party Chair Tony Giardini said.

“Nobody is perfect, and everybody has issues, but when you’re a public official — like it or not — you’re going to be held to a higher standard,” Giardini said. “You can’t have councilpeople behaving that way.”

He said the arrest could also cause constituents to lose faith in Flores’ ability to make moral decisions.

Even though it’s a misdemeanor, from the public’s perspective it’s much more serious, he said.

Ohioans are very sensitive about the conduct of elected officials since the resignation of former state Rep. Matthew Barrett and former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann, Giardini said.

Barrett resigned in April, about six months after a nude photo appeared on a computer during a talk to a high school government class. After resisting mightily for about ten days, Dann resigned on May 14 “amid the scandal of a sexual harassment investigation in his office and his extramarital affair.”

Barrett and Dann also served as Democrats, which Hawk did not note.

For compare-and-contrast purposes — I link you to the Associated Press’s coverage of New York Congressman Vito Fossella’s resignation, where the word “Republican” appears ten times in the first nine paragraphs. I would suggest that the differences in the facts and circumstances are nowhere near enough to explain the party-identification disparities between Fossella and Flores.

Cross-posted at


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