More on Political Hackery in BC
Commenting on my post, Political Hackery in BC, setaf suggested readers study the subsequent articles regarding incumbent Sheriff Steve Evans, as printed by the Daily Review. I figured I’d take him up on it, and save you some time. For those interested in delving deeper than I have, you can go to the Daily Review‘s website. At the top the the page, there is a search bar. The links below were found doing a search for all articles containing the words “Steve Evans” within the past 30 days.
The first two items are actually from editions prior to those I mentioned in my previous post on the subject.
Some of the links are “Letters to the Editor” and – unfortunately – to find some of them, you’ll have to scroll down the page to find the exact item. (21st century web technology and the idea of links being unfamiliar tools to the local press, I suppose.) I’ve marked them as “LTE” and included the headers in bold where there is more than one LTE on that page, so you can locate them a little more easily. Editorials are marked as such.
Certain things have been marked with asterisks (*) and my comments are footnoted at the bottom.
So, ready to read more? Follow me below the fold!
From April 9, 2007, Editorial:
The Bradford County solicitor’s legal opinion on whether Sheriff Steve Evans “misrepresented” his office in order to get a $246,000 federal anti-meth grant is an exercise in public relations.
That should not come as a surprise. Jonathan P. Foster, although he is paid to help keep the county government out of legal jeopardy, nevertheless is an advocate for the county. In the case in question, he did what lawyers do, which is advocate for their clients. However, in this case, Mr. Foster’s opinion fails to recognize relevant facts, and does not provide an illuminating analysis of the issue.
Mr. Foster points out in his opinion that the sheriff stated in the application that his office was “not the primary law enforcement authority” in the area, and while it is “not the responding agency for calls for service, we have taken a very active role in attacking the methamphetamine problem.” Sheriff Evans asserts his office has “not only investigated, apprehended and prosecuted numerous meth cooks,” it has “vigorously” participated in anti-meth education.
What’s really going on?
What’s really going on is an example of how individuals can weave a web of influence to dominate a local government bureaucracy. According to challenger Hostettler, the sheriff, a part of the controlling clique in the courthouse, was seeking money to expand the influence of his office. He was laying groundwork for the infrastructure of a countywide police force, Mr. Hostettler believes, something favored by Bob McGuinness, a candidate for district attorney.
From April 11, 2007:
Although Bradford County’s legal adviser wrote recently that Sheriff Steve Evans told him the district attorney never ordered him to stop investigating drugs, The Review in 2004 published a story in which the sheriff discussed his investigatory powers being limited by the district attorney.
Asked about it, Evans reiterated Tuesday that District Attorney Steve Downs is wrong when he says he has told the sheriff he could not independently investigate drugs. In addition, Evans said, The Review’s 2004 account also was wrong because it quoted him out of context.
The issue is pertinent now because former Troy Police Chief Greg Hostettler, who is seeking to unseat Evans as sheriff in the May primary election, has accused the sheriff of “misrepresenting” his office in a September 2006 application for a $246,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Evans’ statement goes on to cite three arguments intended to show that he is right: [my emphasis]
1) The district attorney does not have the authority to tell the sheriff what not to investigate. He has the authority only to decide if his office will prosecute the arrests.
2) The district attorney has prosecuted the following examples of drug cases that the Sheriff’s Office has filed:
3) Downs himself argued before the state Supreme Court late last year in the Dobbins case that the “trained deputy sheriffs had the authority to investigate, obtain a search warrant, and file a criminal complaint and obtain an arrest warrant for felony offenses under the Controlled Substance, Drug Device and Cosmetic Act…
From April 18, 2007, LTE: [In full]
Sheriff’s department does good job
EDITOR: I have been silent but now it is time for me to speak out.
I am appalled and angered by all the nasty and uncalled-for remarks and, yes, below-the-belt comments by Mr. Downs and Mr. Hostettler concerning the Sheriff’s Dept. Steve Evans has done so much for our communities including education on the drug problem. He not only deeply cares about the community, but also his men. Steve would not send his men out to do anything he would not do. His deputies do a wonderful job and are as dedicated as any other law enforcement agency, and, yes, I do consider them law enforcement officers.
How dare anyone demean and try to destroy the integrity and dedication of Sheriff Evans and his deputies.
So, Mr. Downs and Mr. Hostettler, how about stopping the vendetta because in the end the voters will have their say. I, for one, know who will get my vote.
By the way, I am Deputy Sheriff Christopher M. Burgert’s mother and he is my hero and died trying to do what is right, protecting his community.
The insistence by Sheriff Steve Evans and his solicitor, Ray DePaola, that criticism over the failure to conduct a formal, civil accounting of the sheriff’s policies and procedures surrounding the killings of two deputies is politicizing their deaths is the ultimate affront to the honorable men who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Highly professional, well-disciplined and well-trained law enforcement agencies, including the Pennsylvania State Police, always conduct investigations of the circumstances surrounding the discharge of a gun when one of their troopers is involved.
Of course. They’re professionals. They and other like-minded law enforcement agencies want to know whether the proper policies and procedures were followed, and if not, not only why not, but what can be done to ensure that any errors of omission or commission are not repeated in the future.
But, the aftermath of the murders of deputies Chris Burgert and Michael Van Kuren — shot to death in 2004 while pursuing warrant service on the Briggs property in Wells Township — was an emotional time, and no oversight is known to have been conducted.
Dustin Briggs was captured by state police, tried, convicted in Bradford County Court, and sentenced to death for his brutal crimes. That satisfied the need for a criminal investigation of the circumstances, but not the need for a civil review of what training and procedures the sheriff’s office had in place, for example, for handling warrant service, especially in potentially dangerous situations.
For the sake of argument, assume that questioning his office’s competence is, indeed, politically motivated. So what? That’s politics! The sheriff knows what that’s all about. After all, in 2005, when he said that although he loved his job, he needed a change of pace, and the opportunity to work regular hours so he could spend more time with his family, he sought the office of magistrate judge and attacked incumbent Fred Wheaton’s performance in office. Mr. Wheaton responded to the charges. The voters decided: the sheriff was rejected by better than a 2-to-1 margin, and the judge was retained on the bench.
Politics can be rough and tumble, clean or dirty. Voters must sift through charges and counter charges, as the sheriff and his solicitor have acknowledged in saying things such as they hope voters can see through what’s going on. Their implication, surely, is that something disrespectful, even sinister, is behind asking the sheriff to account for himself.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s time for an airing of a subject that, admittedly, has its heart-breaking aspects. At stake is whether steps have been taken to ensure that all the proper protections are in place should another deputy be faced with life-threatening force. A review should be no big thing. It’s done all the time in law enforcement. So, why not here?
In an April 14 story quoting District Attorney Steve Downs on Sheriff Steve Evans’ knowledge of Dustin Briggs’ criminal record, The Review misidentified a person quoted in a 2005 article published by the Wyalusing Rocket-Courier.
The Review erroneously reported Sheriff Steve Evans was the person quoted in The Rocket as saying he had seen a rap sheet on Dustin Briggs. In fact, it was attorney Robert McGuinness who was quoted in the April 7, 2005, Rocket about the rap sheet he said was seen by the sheriff’s office.
From April 22, 2007:
Pat Savercool, who is running for Bradford County sheriff, has indicated that the recently raised issues related to the 2004 slayings of two Bradford County sheriff’s deputies should not be part of the race for county sheriff.
When asked to comment on whether issues related to the March 31, 2004 slayings should be part of the sheriff’s race, Hostettler said that he supports an investigation into the training and operating procedures of the sheriff’s department in relation to the deaths of the deputies, and said it is not too late to conduct such an investigation.
But at the April 12 candidates’ forum, Evans said he would not dishonor the memories of Burgert and VanKuren by “politicizing” the events of March 31, 2004.
When asked for comment on Downs’ accusations, attorney Ray DePaola, solicitor for the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office, also stated he would “not use the tragedy of March 31, 2004 for political purposes.”
DePaola also criticized The Review for its reporting on the issues raised by Perechinsky and Downs. “It’s disgusting what you are trying to do with this issue,” DePaola told a reporter from The Review.
From April 22, 2007, LTE: (Full disclosure: I personally know the woman who wrote this.)
It is my belief that a newspaper’s job, via its reporters, is to report the news. Not to try to generate the news, or become its own headlines. To say The Daily Review has interjected itself into the race for Bradford County Sheriff is an understatement.
Fair, open, honest debate, and disagreement is fine during a political race. However the attacks on Steve Evans are uncalled for. Does your paper really believe he caused the deaths of those fine deputies? To allow, and use, them as political fodder is dead wrong. I understand that politics can be dirty. I have lost all respect for Mr. Hostettler as a result of his campaign.
Sheriff Evans pulled advertisements from your paper. Your paper admits it made serious errors in those legal ads. You hold Sheriff Evans responsible for proof reading them, and absolve yourselves of all responsibility. Do you really believe checking dates, and verifying these legal ads, is too difficult for your staff? If so, then he was right to have pulled the ads. This is a business matter, and should not be used as grounds for a vendetta against Sheriff Evans.
ADDENDUM: I spoke with Mr. Hosie, Editor, of The Daily Review. He became quite agitated when I accused his paper, and his reporters, of practicing tabloid journalism. […]
If, as Mr. Hosie claims, there is a need for further investigation, why did the commissioners not demand it at the time? Why did The Daily Review not press for it? Why did Mr. Hostettler, Mr. Downs, Mr. Perechinsky not demand it? Is this just a coincidence; are these complaints against Sheriff Evans, and the current political race, seems not strangely timed?
From my conversation with Ron Hosie, I gleaned some measure of why The Daily Review has entered the “yellow” journalism. He became angry and belligerent. Perhaps, I should not have used the word “garbage” when referring to the coverage of the sheriff’s race. Would he have been less angry if I accused him of being biased, due to financial concerns for his paper? (Oops, I did accused him of that.) No, he was no less angry.
Open, disagreement, and discussion, is essential. We get to disagree, even with the views of the editor of The Daily Review.
From April 29, 2007:
Bradford County Sheriff Steven A. Evans, whose bid for reelection is being challenged in the Republican primary in May, is embroiled in a public controversy over whether ethical conflicts exist between his public duties and his private real estate dealings involving associates.
Three individuals are at the heart of the issue: The sheriff, who organizes and conducts sheriff sale auctions of foreclosed real estate; the solicitor for the sheriff’s office, and a private real estate investor who is a frequent buyer of sheriff’s sales real estate which, at times, can be bought at a bargain price. The sheriff, the solicitor and the investor all say there are no conflicts because they have no confidential information or competitive advantage.
But, a local citizens’ group, ethics experts and others disagree. They question whether the relationships are inherently unethical and, at the very least, create a perception that the sheriff-sale process could be manipulated.
About 14 months ago, Bradford County Sheriff Steven A. Evans, who is responsible for conducting the sheriff sales, formed a private, for-profit business entity with Roger L. Brown, a Towanda real estate investor who frequently buys property at sheriff sales.
Towanda attorney Rinaldo (Ray) A. DePaola, the long-time solicitor for the sheriff’s office, was the attorney of record listed in the incorporation papers on file at the Department of State in Harrisburg for R.L.D.S. Inc. The entity was organized by Evans and his wife Diana, and Roger L. Brown and his wife Lori.
About four months ago, DePaola, Brown and another person formed a limited liability company called BDJ Properties, according to documents filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State. The company has bought property at a Bradford County sheriff sale, according to documents filed at the Bradford County courthouse.
About 11 years ago, the sheriff and his wife together took title to property in Towanda that was sold at a sheriff sale, according to official documents.
Evans, Brown and DePaola have been linked in public or private transactions for at least 15 years, property transaction records on file at the courthouse show.
Evans, DePaola and Brown, in response to questions from The Review, all say their dealings are entirely above board, that no confidential information is available to them, that they enjoy no competitive advantage over any member of the public, and that there can be no legitimate grounds for questioning their business arrangements.
Evans wrote, in part, “The sheriff sale files are a matter of public record. Every month, dozens of individuals come in the sheriff’s office and review the entire file. In short, there is no such thing as ‘confidential information’ regarding a sheriff’s sale.”
In response to the questions posed earlier this month by The Review, and in a statement issued to Bradford County Concerned Citizens, the sheriff acknowledged forming a corporation with his wife Diana, and Roger Brown and his wife Lori. Evans pointed out he had filed a “statement of financial interest” at the county elections office in connection with his current re-election campaign. In the statement, he says he has a 25 percent financial interest and is vice president of RLDS, the address for which is his residence.
In the statement released to BCCC and The Review, which was signed by Mr. and Mrs. Brown and Mr. and Mrs. Evans, it is acknowledged that two properties have been bought by the corporation, R.L.D.S.
Other real estate transactions in which Evans, Brown, or DePaola have been involved are detailed in documents on file at the courthouse in Towanda or at the state capital.
For example, in the 1995 transaction involving Evans’ then fiance;, mentioned above, the sheriff sale actually consisted of two parcels, one at Second and Elizabeth streets in Towanda, and the other in Sayre.
According to the Writ of Execution, in which the Bradford County Court of Common Pleas authorized the foreclosure sale, the Towanda property went to Diana Chaffee for about $18,300 and the Sayre property went to Roger Brown for about $21,000. The deed for the Towanda property, recorded on Jan. 2, 1996, says that Sheriff Evans sold the real estate to Steven A. Evans and Diana A. Evans.
Nevertheless, Evans told The Review, “I have never bid on a property at a sheriff sale. In 1995, my fiancé was the successful bidder on property in Towanda Borough at a public sheriff sale. Shortly after, we were married and my wife assigned the bid to Steve and Diana Evans.”
Documents show the sheriff sale took place on Nov. 29, 1995 and Evans and his fiancé were married on Dec. 1, 1995. The transaction was recorded at the courthouse on Jan. 2, 1996. The fair market value of the property, still owned by the Evanses, was estimated in 1995 at about $51,000.The attorney for the bank seeking the mortgage foreclosure in 1995 was DePaola.
Evans, who faces two challengers in the May primary election, has been engaged in a vigorous re-election campaign. The challengers are former Troy Police Chief Greg Hostettler, and Constable Pat Savercool. Among the other issues are the sheriff’s budget, his efforts to expand the investigative authority of his office at a time, some critics say, the sheriff’s traditional statutory duties, such as serving warrants, are not adequately attended to.
Brown is one of 11 Republican candidates seeking two seats on the Bradford County Board of Commissioners. Three democrats are competing in their party’s primary.
From April 29, 2007:
Questions about the conduct of the sheriff sale auctions have been put to The Review’s newsroom at least since May of 2003, but they lacked adequate documentation. *
Things changed earlier this year. On the afternoon of Feb. 26 and the morning of March 1 phone calls from confidential sources re-focused The Review’s attention on the matter because details about specific transactions were mentioned.
By at least March 8, confidential sources had begun to download documents from the Pennsylvania Department of State Web site and to copy other records at the Bradford County Courthouse. More details about land transaction were provided by a confidential source in a phone call the morning of March 14.
The pursuit of the story about sheriff sales was well underway when, on March 14, Sheriff Steve Evans revealed in a letter he hand-delivered to The Review that he intended to pull his advertising for sheriff sales of foreclosed properties out of the newspaper. Instead, Evans said, he would advertise in the Morning Times, a smaller newspaper whose circulation largely is confined to The Valley area in the northern portion of Bradford County. The Review’s circulation area includes the entirety of Bradford County.
Sheriff-sale advertising is a significant source of revenue for newspapers. **
Evans insisted the reason for the change was because of mistakes made by The Review during the summer of the previous year. The Review corrected the mistakes, adjusted the billing, continued to publish sheriff sale ads from the sheriff’s office, and did not receive any additional complaints from him until he revealed he was pulling his ads.
George V. Lynett Jr., publisher of The Review, said the sheriff’s timing in pulling the advertising was “suspect.” Of concern was the possibility of retaliation by the sheriff, a current candidate for re-election, for recent critical coverage of him in The Review. Another possibility, which The Review raised in an editorial, was that his move was a re-election campaign strategy intended to allow him to dismiss any critical coverage of him during the campaign as supposed sour grapes on The Review’s part because it lost his advertising.
Contemporary critical coverage of the sheriff, based on events over which The Review had no influence, was published in The Review well before the sheriff discontinued his advertising.
For example, in late January, based on a confidential memo leaked to The Review, the newspaper broke a story about a “celebration” the sheriff staged to lampoon the district attorney, with whom he long had been at odds. In the confidential memo, the county personnel director castigated the sheriff and recommended he apologize to the district attorney. The Review also published an editorial calling the sheriff wrong and urging him to apologize.
On March 19, The Review conducted an interview requested previously by former Troy Police Chief Greg Hostettler, who is trying to unseat Evans in the May primary. Hostettler presented documents and accused Sheriff Evans of “misrepresenting” his office in applying for a U.S. Department of Justice grant for $246,000, which was approved. On March 21, after vetting Hostettler’s documents and allegations, The Review published a story, the thrust of which was disputed by Evans.
In the interests of full disclosure, or transparency, The Review discloses that its confidential sources who helped focus the newspaper’s attention on the property transactions at the Bradford County courthouse, include critics of Sheriff Evans who, in at least some instances, support Greg Hostettler, who is challenging Evans in the May primary.
The Review also discloses that Editor Ronald W. Hosie has paid fees to attorney Ray DePaola for legal advice relating to the buying and selling of the homes Hosie and his wife have owned in the Towanda area, and for legal advice concerning a home where the Hosies once lived in upstate New York.***
From May 2, 2007, LTE:
For the past several weeks I have been following your very biased reports regarding Sheriff Evans. I realize all newspapers thrive on controversy. However I feel you owe your readers more balanced reporting.
The accusations toward the sheriff by our lameduck, part-time district attorney and the attorney general should have been in place many, many months ago.
These charges are tactics usually reserved for do-nothing, self-serving political parasites that come crawling out of the woodwork during an election year.
May 3, 2007, Sheriff’s candidates’ questionnaires. Too long and detailed to clip. Read the whole thing.
From May 3, 2007, LTE:
EDITOR: When are you people going to grow up?
Don’t you see how childish and ignorant you look with all of the put downs and implausible slander that’s being published everyday?
Our local newspaper has been reduced to nothing more than tabloid rubbish. Does it make you feel ten feet tall to put down men that have been working to better our community for years? Does it make you feel good to know that the families of the men you’ve been slamming in the dirt, have to read and hear about this everyday? How do you think they feel when one of their children ask, why they’re saying terrible things about their father? I suppose you think that it’s perfectly acceptable for the answer to be, “it’s election time, that’s just how it goes.”
One of the most mean spirited and totally ridiculous articles I’ve seen this far, was the one that accused our Sheriff, Steve Evans of knowingly sending his two deputies into the line of fire. You knew that wasn’t true, but you printed it anyway.
Myself and many others think that you owe Steve Evans and his family an apology! We are sick of the slander being targeted at our sheriff and anyone else that the Daily doesn’t totally support. It needs to stop and if it doesn’t maybe we should make up an organization and demand that it does!
Start reporting some real news again, write what is controvertible not just what is convenient to your agenda.
From May 6, 2007, Editorial:
Bradford County’s Personnel Policies and Practice Manual states: “Any effort to realize personal gain through public employment, beyond the wages and benefits provided by Bradford County, is a violation of public trust, as is any conduct which would create a justifiable impression in the public mind that such trust is being violated.”
The practices of the Bradford County sheriff’s office in conducting sheriff sales of foreclosed real estate have raised questions of the ethics involved. The sheriff is an owner of real estate that in two instances have roots in sheriff sales.**** [emphasis mine]
Sheriff Evans, Mr. DePaola and Mr. Brown all deny any wrongdoing whatsoever and insist they enjoy no competitive advantage over anyone in access to information about the sheriff sales.
The issue and its ramifications deserve close examination. What about Sheriff Evans’ decision to pull the advertising of sheriff sales from The Review, with its countywide circulation, and place the ads in the smaller Morning Times, of Sayre, which circulates mostly in the Valley portion of the area, and has 63 percent fewer readers than The Review?
Was that retribution for the critical coverage of the sheriff published in The Review? Was it part of his re-election campaign strategy to be able to dismiss any critical coverage in The Review on the grounds it was the result of the newspaper’s supposed sour grapes over losing a substantial revenue account? Was it anger over mistakes made in ads the previous summer, mistakes that were admitted and corrected by The Review at the time?
Or, was it a business decision to limit the public’s exposure to the ads that announce the sale of foreclosed property, which sometimes can be bought at bargain prices?
Moving the advertising away from The Review is an example of actions by the sheriff which raise questions about ethics.
From May 8, 2007, LTE’s:
EDITOR: Thank goodness Steve Evans has been the sheriff of Bradford County or it would be overrun by meth labs by now.
It’s also too bad that we had a district attorney that did all the plea bargaining instead of prosecuting the criminals.
Open letter to Review
EDITOR: An open letter to Ronald W. Hosie, the editor of the “Daily Review.”
Whatever happened to objective reporting, Mr. Hosie? For many weeks you, through this newspaper, have blasted our very popular Bradford County Sheriff Steve Evans on a never-ending campaign. It is quite evident that you have been campaigning to oust Sheriff Evans and have championed the cause of one of the other candidates. Guess which one, that is mentioned in every story that you have written in your thousands of words you have devoted to your favorite subject. I have never seen so much ink devoted to a subject as what has been fostered on your readers this year. I have seen absolutely no criticism of the other candidates for sheriff, however, so I must assume that they are perfect.
In my 47 years working for a newspaper I was witness to many election campaigns our editorial staff covered, and never in my life have I seen anything as disgusting as what you, the lead editor of your newspaper, have perpetrated on behalf of this newspaper. Using objectivity is what newspapers should be doing in their reporting, not taking sides, which is clearly what you have done. Let the people decide at election time after they have heard both sides. You have gone off the deep end in your bitter, vitriolic attacks of the sheriff, which makes me wonder, what in the world did he do to deserve your personal wrath? And you do make it look personal. Ever hear that controversy sells newspapers? From the inside working at a newspaper I have seen that misused many times also.
With your innuendo and smear campaign you have dragged in the names of many in law enforcement and court personnel to bolster your arguments against our sheriff. Unless some have an axe to grind with the sheriff, I cannot for one moment understand the statements made by some. One of the worst is a shameful statement of a former state police officer in his criticism of what took place in the death of our deputies.
From May 9, 2007, LTE: (in full since I couldn’t decide what to cut)
Attorney supports Evans
EDITOR: As a way of introduction, I am attorney who argued the case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in December opposing the authority of the Sheriff to investigate and make arrest of individuals for meth labs in Bradford County.
That was my obligation as a defense attorney but having said that, I am writing in strong support of the re-election of Sheriff Evans. Reason being, although I am a defense attorney, I am also a father and grandfather and greatly appreciate the proactive approach of Sheriff Evans in dealing with the drug problem. He has also turned the Sheriff’s Department into a highly respected professional organization.
The State requires basic training for all sheriff deputies but Sheriff Evans goes a considerable step further. All Bradford County deputies are required to take over 700 hours of additional training so they qualify as police officers.
The Supreme Court will eventually decide the limits of the sheriff’s authority, but we must applaud the efforts of Sheriff Evans. The other two candidates are both fine men but if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
Robert G. Fleury
– – –
* Interesting. How could they “lack documentation”? It’s not difficult to find information about sheriff’s sales, including who bought the properties offered at the sales, whose name the deed was recorded, etc. I’ve done title searches myself. It’s not fun, but it sure as heck could have been done before now…if the Daily Review had cared to do so. Which, of course, they didn’t, until Sheriff Evans pulled his ads from that paper due to continuing errors and began advertising them in a competing paper.
** But really, believe them when they say it didn’t matter, and their attacks on Steve Evans aren’t related.
*** Because (I suspect) Mr. DePaola is considered one of the better real estate attorneys in the county.
**** Two instances in how many years as sheriff? One from 1995, one in 2006.
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