Earlier this week I wrote about Senator Rand Paul’s office picking up a story I wrote about sewage treatment plant in Ray as their weekly example of waste in federal spending. Long story short, the City of Ray overbuilt their new sewage treatment system, paid for at least in part by federal dollars, and now they don’t have enough sewage to run it so they’ve been allowing free dumping which ticks off the private companies that make a living doing that sort of thing.
Got it? Good.
Well I thought the matter was pretty much closed, but today Forum Communications reporter Amy Dalrymple picked up the story and really did it a disservice with her report. “City of Ray says U.S. senator doesn’t have all the facts in labeling project a waste,” reads her headline, and pretty much her entire story consists city and state officials defending themselves on the project.
Nobody from Senator Paul’s office was quoted in the story, and I can say that I certainly wasn’t contacted for comment. That was unfortunate because of stuff like this:
“I’m disappointed in Rand Paul’s office not contacting us to get all of the facts,” Ray City Commissioner Richard Liesener told Dalrymple. “I don’t understand somebody putting all of their fact basis on a blogger. I would certainly welcome Rand Paul’s office to contact the city directly, myself if he’d like.”
There are two things wrong with that comment.
First, I’m pretty sure Senator Paul’s office contacted the City of Ray. When they were discussing my story with me they told me they had filed an open records request and were talking to me about the fees the city was going to charge them for the information. I called Liesener this evening and he conceded that he wasn’t really aware if Paul’s office contacted them or not. I can’t imagine that Senator Paul’s staff was making up their open records request, but certainly Dalrymple could have confirmed that if she had, you know, called them and stuff.
As for the comment about basing a story on a blogger, I’d point out that I also contacted the City of Ray and was directed immediately to their attorney Bryan Van Grinsven of Minot when I asked them about the project. Mr. Van Grinsven responded to questions I sent him in writing, and not only did I quote the facts and figures Mr. Van Grinsven gave me in my original story but I also included a link to a scanned copy of his entire letter.
If I got my facts wrong, it’s because the city gave me the wrong facts.
But I don’t think they did give me the wrong facts. Again, when I spoke to Liesener this evening he apologized for that comment about relying on a blogger and said he was pressed for time during his interview with Dalrymple. He agreed that my facts were straight, though he disagrees with my conclusion that the project was overreach.
Which is fine. Reasonable people can have different opinions, but one thing I work very hard on is getting the right facts.