The Brentwood Press appears to be on shaky ground with the County Supervisor after their paper’s editor, Ruth Roberts, put out a column where she failed to verify facts regarding a meeting last week that was cancelled. Roberts erroneously blamed a “calendar conflict” of the Supervisor as the reason for the meeting being cancelled while hoping her “calendar clears” soon.
The problem with Ms. Roberts column comment was that she stated there was a much anticipated meeting with the county district supervisor and organizations in town to iron out the permitting process. Unfortunately for Roberts, that was untrue as it was never a meeting with the County Supervisor, but rather it was a meeting between county staff set up through Amanda Dove. It had little, if not anything, to do with Supervisor Piepho.
Here is a look at the column published in the Press newspapers.
Ms. Roberts no doubt has her information backwards and is either confused about county protocol or was just plain reckless in going on the attack of an elected official who was trying to provide greater transparency in a timely topic given the failure of event planning in Discovery Bay.
Unfortunately for Ms. Roberts, in an email to Supervisor Piepho, she confirms she never did check with the Supervisors office for details to confirm her claims, however, she defends her actions by using mysterious sources.
While Ms. Roberts is free to defend her reckless and irresponsible actions, it doesn’t make her right. I was able to confirm that the first time Supervisor Piepho knew about the meeting was Monday morning–nearly 48-hours before the meeting start time. I also confirmed through emails that Lt. Johnson of the Sheriffs Office was made aware of the meeting 9-minutes before Supervisor Piepho as he forwarded the invitation sent from Amanda Dove.
When I asked Piepho about her knowledge of the meeting, she was made aware of the meeting through outside sources and was not requested to attend at that time.
“We were completely unaware of any meeting being held until Lt. Johnson made an inquiry of our office. Last Monday I believe. That was the first we were made aware of any meeting that might be taking place. That was two days prior to the actual meeting,” said Piepho via email.
For the record, no one stated the meeting was cancelled. Instead, County Environmental Health stated they were not attending to Ms. Dove which was shown in an emails below.
The chain of emails speak for themselves beginning with the Supervisor asking Ms. Roberts where she got her information on a very incorrect column.
On Oct 26, 2013 7:09 PM
Ruth, Since you did not speak to me directly, please identify for me who in my office you spoke to regarding my calendar of events, schedule and any other material facts as they relate to the below gossip you printed in the DB Press. I request an immediate response.
If the answer is “Nobody”, which I fully expect, consider this a demand for a published apology, front page, above the fold, with my name and photo as you have sized in the “Talk About Town” column. M
In an email dated October 26, at 9:02 pm, Roberts responded to the Supervisor
You are correct, I did not speak to anyone in your office. I spoke with others who had scheduled what they hoped would be a meeting of the minds and a review of protocol as it pertains to the permitting process. If it was someone else who had to reschedule please enlighten me. I will be happy to print a clarification in the same location where the item appeared.
The Supervisor stated she found the explanation to be unacceptable and it appears to me that Ms. Roberts is then trying to interview the Supervisor after the fact as opposed to publishing the story.
Interestingly enough, Ms. Roberts avoided identifying her source. Instead of owning up to an oversight, Ms. Roberts further tries to defend her poor judgement by further questioning the Supervisor on the incident which is something she might want to consider prior to going to print in the future.
This rather chilly one-line email response from Ms. Roberts to the Supervisor was shot back on Oct. 26 at 9:11 pm.
Unacceptable for a meeting you had to reschedule? Is that incorrect? Did someone else have to reschedule?
At that point, the Supervisor had enough of the play on words and decided to go above Ms. Roberts for an explanation.
Your response Ruth. Amazing. Unacceptable that you did zero fact checking. I will speak with Greg (Robinson) directly and appreciate your working on the apology for next week’s edition.
Ruth Roberts on Oct 27 at 7:59 PM
I guess I’m confused as to what you are asking an apology for. Were you able to make the meeting and someone else had to reschedule? I had several people tell me that they were disappointed that you were unable to make the meeting after you were told about it, and had hoped to get this issue resolved. If someone, or something, else stalled the talks I would certainly like to know and would then consider a correction. My point was to encourage everyone to get on the same page and move ahead for the good of the community.
If you are more comfortable speaking with Greg about this, I understand. He and I have had a conversation about this and he is more than happy to discuss it with you if you wish.
So now we get a story from Ms. Roberts who deviates away from her claim that this meeting was scheduled with the County Supervisor to people stating they were disappointed that she would not attend after being alerted of the meeting. So which is it?
Again, no invitation or request to attend occurred. Just because Supervisor Piepho was made aware, doesn’t mean she is participating. Ultimately, the Supervisor didn’t have to change her calendar because she was never apart of the event which is where Ms. Roberts made the mistake of assuming an invitation was extended.
She would not have made that mistake had she made a phone call.
I would also contest Ms. Roberts claim of getting everyone on the same page is nonsense as she is apparently defending ignorance and ignoring the fact the the county sent Ms. Dove and the service groups she is protecting three letters outlining county rules and ordinances on special events. Furthermore, rules for special events have not recently changed so there should be little room confusion considering the number of community events held in Discovery Bay.
Here is Supervisor Piepho’s response to Ms. Roberts.
On Oct 27, 2013 8:21 PM
Unfortunately, you did not ask these questions before going to print. You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about yet you printed that my schedule was the reason for the delay of a mtg. Professionally, as a writer, a journalist, not fact checking is unacceptable. You took extreme liberty with my reputation and name and I expect the apology. At the very least. M
Ruth Roberts shot back
On Oct 27, 2013, at 8:34 PM
Again, you are neither enlightening nor refuting what I wrote except to say it is wrong. I know exactly what I am talking about and you know I do. I have taken no liberties with your name or reputation. A scheduling conflict is hardly a crime. I will leave it to you and Greg to discuss.
First of all, there was no scheduling conflict as we have already stated, consequently there is no crime. The real crime here was the editor of the Press newspaper failed to fact check. The conversation was put to an end by Supervisor Piepho suggesting she would rather speak with the owner of the paper.
Date: October 27, 2013 at 9:03:58 PM PDT
Ruth, Thank you for your time. Greg and I will have a healthy conversation. Your gossip is wrong. As you said… ” You are correct, I did not speak to anyone in your office. ”
If you have not learned from my messages that I am refuting your article, I’m not sure what else I can say. You have no idea what you are talking about. If you had done just a little research, exposed a little integrity, you would.
Mary N. Piepho
How the Meeting Was Set Up?
So while that little exchange shows unprofessional behavior of a local paper and editor, it begs the question what really did happen with the meeting and where did Ms. Roberts get her fabricated information?
For starters, to the Brentwood Press reader, what “brouhaha” is Ms. Roberts talking about in regards to Rocktoberfest? The Press never wrote about this event other than a post event follow up. The Press apparently confirmed facts since East County Today was the only media outlet to challenge Ms. Dove and the event planners behavior which stated the event had to be tweaked and re-located after a permitting issue. I can only assume they decided not to educate their audience on the drama because they were event sponsors.
Having said that, I went further back in my records to find out where the drama began which is traced back to last minute invitations by Amanda Dove of the Delta Sun Times. While Ms. Dove gets applause for trying to educate her community, she already had the information and if she wanted a meeting of grand significance and participation desired, you don’t send out invitations days before an event. Aside from that, its not very polite.
Let’s look at the emails shall we, yes we shall!
As we already stated, the Supervisor’s office was made aware of this shot-gun meeting Monday morning (October 21) at 10:29 am from Lt. Alan Johnson of the County Sheriff’s Office who received an invite from Amanda Dove of the Delta Sun Times. It should be noted, Lt. Johnson sent the email roughly 9-minutes after he himself was invited to attend.
Good morning, A.J.
I’d like to ask if you could attend a Discovery Bay community event planning meeting this Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., at the Steakhouse meeting room (2465 DB Blvd.). We will have Contra Costa Health Services and Community Development in attendance. We have also invited the heads of every local community group to participate, so we can all understand the process of obtaining county permits for future Discovery Bay events.
Unaware of the event, Karyn from Supervisor Piephos office attempted to find out more information and reached out to Contra Costa County Environmental Health Director Marilyn Underwood who provided a very quick response regarding the meeting.
On Oct 21, 2013, at 11:10 AM
Hi Karyn , we reached out to Amanda Dove to meet with her and I think the Lions Club to talk about our requirements. We had suggested to Amanda that she also invite other departments like DCD, sheriff, etc, but we also recognized that trying to get that many agencies together at one time might not be so easy so we decided to proceed and have this meeting focus on food issues. And Amanda does not want it to be an open invitation event, which we are fine with as I would like to be able to try and establish a good rapport with her/Lions Club.
Marilyn C. Underwood, Ph.D., REHS
Date: October 21, 2013 at 1:27:32 PM PDT
Her invitation invites all local groups. All Depts. should attend, including PW. And my office. M
Mary N. Piepho
Supervisor Piepho was then made aware in a email from CSD Director Kevin Graves that he had received a personal invitation. At that point, Supervisor Piepho shot back a second email requesting that all appropriate departments and agencies are represented and properly invited. In most cases, with certain elected officials invited, proper agenda notice should have been taken into consideration. For the record, its unclear which CSD Directors were extended invitations and who was not—they all should have been included which would mean proper notice would have been required.
In response, Supervisor Piepho responded:
Date: October 21, 2013 at 1:44:59
Marilyn, I believe this mtg needs to be rescheduled so it is public and every resident, community leader and county dept can attend. We will work with the CSD and ask them to host. We cannot have shot gun blasts if information going out to certain people. We knew this mtg was necessary and let’s make sure it is done right. Please call me at 925-###-#### if you would like to discuss. Many thanks. M
Ms. Underwood then responded back to Supervisor Piepho with a short explanation.
Date: October 21, 2013 at 1:50:05 PM
Hi Mary, how about calling me re your concerns. We reached out to her immediately after the Rocktoberfest and the cupcake fiasco to offer to meet with her and discuss EH concerns. I am not interested in making this a big political event and not get any where on compliance. I think it is fine if you want to host a larger meeting and invite her but I need to have some room to approach things on a smaller scale. It seems like you have some concerns that I am not aware of and I would like to understand them and I would like to have you hear where I am coming from.
By the early afternoon on Monday, Supervisor Piepho suggested the meeting be rescheduled because it was no longer private and turned into a public forum—which was where the meeting deviated from its original intent and maybe Ms. Dove was attempting to control the audience.
Date: 10/21/2013 02:15 PM
Marilyn, So much for a “private” mtg. This mtg needs to be canceled and rescheduled for a public forum, in a public place and include the DBCSD. ASAP.
Mary N. Piepho
By that point, the County Environmental Health Department agreed the meetings intent had changed and should be rescheduled.
On Oct 21, 2013, at 3:11 PM,
We talked with Amanda and informed her that we were not envisioning such a large event. That will not be happening.
Contra Costa County
Environmental Health Director
The supervisor then replied
On Oct 21, 2013, at 4:40 PM
It’s beyond your control at this point. Her invitations have been sent and delivered. Unless the event date changes, she will run the mtg and have only partial info re County requirements. M
Mary N. Piepho
The County Environmental Health Department then replied stating they would also not be attending due to the intent of the meeting changing.
Date: October 21, 2013 at 4:43:40 PM PDT
Perhaps, I was too cryptic, we will not be attending that meeting.
Marilyn C. Underwood, Ph.D., REHS
Contra Costa County
Environmental Health Director
Had Ms. Roberts done her homework prior to print, she would have untangled a web of emails highlighting the information she was went to print with was fabricated. She would have also saved herself from a nasty email exchange with the highest ranking official and accusing her of a calendar conflict—it was actually the Supervisor wanting to ensure the public was properly notified and had an opportunity to attend.
The bigger issue, and rather ironic, is that you have a newspaper owner in Amanda Dove of the Delta Sun Times calling for a meeting to be private and limited which ensures no transparency. Meanwhile, you have a Supervisor who is apparently calling for an open meeting and better public transparency.
The role reversal is backwards and somewhat comical because typically it’s the media fighting for greater transparency, not an elected official.
As for the Brentwood Press, they completely ignored the real story behind Rocktoberfest and the issues with the permits and instead attack a County Supervisor in a gossip column where she had nothing to do with the event.
The question truly is what is Ruth Roberts’s motivation and agenda in this gossip column? Is there something she is personally involved with or did she simply take an uneducated swipe at a County Supervisor? It’s unclear what Ms. Roberts was trying to accomplish, but she apparently missed her goal.
Ms. Roberts claims:
“My point was to encourage everyone to get on the same page and move ahead for the good of the community”
Well if that’s true, a gossip column is probably not the best choice to bring people together by providing erroneous information, instead, a well-researched article on the permitting process might have been a better choice of format.
So what now?
For starters, Ms. Roberts admits to her own failure to fact check with the Supervisors office so an apology should be a given. If you recall, the Contra Costa Times issued an apology after admitting to plagiarizing the LA Times. This is similar.
Unfortunately for the Press Newspaper, an apology is the easy part. The hard part is building up trust with elected officials, sources, and their readership.
The public’s trust of a news organization has been broken and that can be difficult to overcome.
By Michael Burkholder