In January, I wrote of my disappointment with Voice of OC reporting on Anaheim. I had high hopes for the Voice when is started. However, I have reluctantly concluded reporter Adam Elmahrek has a definite agenda that colors his decisions about what stories to cover and how those stories are slanted. Some players in Anaheim politics are subjected to intense and often unfair scrutiny, the actions of others are ignored, and context is often lacking.
Last month, he wrote a story about an e-mail he hadn’t seen, and impugned the integrity of two prominent public servants with sterling reputations. Elmahrek all but accused them of defrauding the federal government, but has yet to provide any evidence other than one basically innocuous e-mail. His allegations float out there on the Internet, uncorrected.
Elmahrek’s latest article is another story about nothing. He reports on a contract Jordan Brandman had to perform a facility needs assessment for the Orange County Clerk-Recorder’s office, after he had left that office but prior to being elected to the Anaheim City Council.
I’ve noticed a pattern to Elmahrek’s reporting: he includes a lot of extraneous and irrelevant information about the subject of his story, which has the cumulative effect of making him or her seem sinister or not-above-board. The story on Jordan is true to that pattern, and after clearing away all that editorial underbrush, here is what Elmahrek has: he isn’t sure as to the status of the needs assessment, or whether Jordan was even paid.
So, he turns this absence of information into a story: “Brandman’s County Consulting Contract Raises Questions.” Who is raising these questions? No one except Elmahrek, so the headline is Elmahrek reporting on himself.
Among the questions “being raised” is “whether the councilman failed to fully complete the tasks of his taxpayer-funded contract while he was campaigning for office.” What relevance does Jordan’s candidacy have? Elmahrek doesn’t say. Would no questions be raised if Jordan had been re-modeling his house instead of running for office?
Elmahrek tells us “The campaigns of Brandman and [former Orange County Clerk-recorder Tom] Daly, who in the last election won the 69th Assembly seat, were both heavily supported by business lobbyists and the Disneyland Resort.” Is this relevant to all those questions “being raised” Jordan’s contract? No, but it does make Jordan seem like a water-carrier for corporate interests, and I think that is deliberate.
Elmahrek tells us: “District Attorney Tony Rackackaus also has questions about Brandman’s work and whether the councilman has been abusing public resources. Rackauckas’ office has been reviewing a complaint that while an Anaheim Union High School District trustee, Brandman used a small district office for personal use, a possible violation of state law that is punishable by a $1,000 fine.”
What Elmahrek doesn’t tell readers is the original complaint was filed by a political enemy of Jordan, Anaheim Union High School District trustee Katherine Smith. He doesn’t tell readers that Smith herself said she had no idea why Jordan had made use of that office or for what. He doesn’t tell readers that Smith suspiciously filed the complaint shortly before the election, and it was used in several mailers attacking Jordan.
Elmahrek tells us: “Doling out taxpayer-funded positions to political allies isn’t uncommon inside the halls of the county administration.
For example, emails released last year by the Orange County Employees Association showed that there’s a quiet tradition at the county by which numerous political aides to members of the Board of Supervisors are fast tracked for positions in the county bureaucracy.”
Again, Elmahrek fails to show any relevance between Jordan’s contract and aides to county supervisors going to work for county agencies, but it does make Jordan’s work seem shady by association. Again, I think that is deliberate.
Another Voice of OC story staining a person’s reputation wiithout any evidence of wrongdoing.
Maybe I am showing my age, but I am accustomed to reporters’ reporting relevant facts and writing stories about what they knew to be true, and waiting until they had those facts before writing their stories. What we’re getting more and more of from the Voice of OC is stories about what isn’t known, with the blanks filled in with speculation and insinuations. The Voice of OC ought to do better than that, and should.