Sunday, October 04, 2009

Week 38: Nixon's Grade


Two week ago, it was the media that poked a hole in the Nixon administration's claim that no top aides knew about the high E.coli test results late last spring. Last week, it was the Governor himself who was forced to admit his administration had been passing along untruthful information about beaches that were closed because of E.Coli levels. In a hastily arranged conference call in an attempt to get ahead of another damaging revelation, Gov. Nixon angrily told reporters that he'd been lied to by staffers at the Department of Natural Resources. Director Mark Templeton has been placed on leave, but has said he wasn't aware he was passing along inaccurate reports. Communications director Jack Cardetti came close to acknowledging he mislead reporters about what top aides was aware of the E.coli report. After hours Friday, DNR suspended two unknown employees. And the media took the gloves off. The Kansas City Star's Steve Kraske may have been the toughest, leveling the headline: "Nixon team spinning out of control." The St. Louis Post-Dispatch penned a stinging editorial about the Governor's sinking credibility. The paper went to say that Nixon's communications staff has been more focused on "controlling the message" than telling truth. Meanwhile, lake officials are worried how this entire story will impact tourism for years to come. "Our biggest problem right now is that an uninformed official with a lot of clout, and a lot of voice, continues to preach about problems at the lake," wrote the Lake Sun Leader in an editorial. Despite all of this -- during the most damaging two weeks of Nixon's first year -- no one has been fired. The one DNR official who has been removed -- Joe Bindbeutel -- was transferred to a better gig. It seems likely that this will have to change if the former Attorney General is serious about accountability and wants to restore his credibility with the public. This has ballooned beyond low-level staffers and the "flushing out" of statements. Too many "mistakes were made" without actual people attached to them. Someone with heft -- will need to go.

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