Yount letter to Daily Dispatch publisher

Editor’s Note: Below is a letter dated June 12, 2009 from former Henderson City Council member Elissa Yount to Daily Dispatch publisher James Edwards regarding an editorial by Dispatch Editor Glenn Craven that was published on May 30, 2009.

Since the letter was composed, the Dispatch has run an article by Craven where he takes issue with Yount over the original editorial. On pages two and three of this article, please find two documents that are referenced by Craven in his latest article, the “Council Instructions for Acting City Manager Mark Warren” and a press release from the Council from July of 2006 announcing the search for a new city attorney.

James D. Edwards, Publisher
The Daily Dispatch
P. O. Box 908
Henderson NC 27536
June 12, 2009

Dear Mr. Edwards:

Your letter of June 9, 2009, does not satisfy my request that you retract the false statements made in Glen Craven’s editorial of May 30, 2009. You stated, “The issue, to me, appears to have less to do with “facts”… I do not know what special meaning to give to “facts” in quotations. I do know that you have printed statements that have no factual basis and which are extremely misleading and distorting. I consider these fabrications a most serious affront on many levels and request an immediate, complete, and full retraction.

Mr. Craven’s statements “Williams eventually sued, and an out-of-court settlement was reached…” “It’s no surprise that Williams sued, nor that his case was strong enough to scare a new council into a settlement.” I ask that both these statements be retracted unless you can produce the file number from the Clerk of Court that shows that Williams sued the City of Henderson and the recording of an out-of-court settlement in said proceeding.

Likewise, “The council including Yount told John Zollicoffer, who had served for years part-time, that his services were no longer needed.” The copies of the minutes will show that Mr. Zollicoffer was offered the position of full-time city attorney, the job description was then tailored to his needs and additional time was given for his decision. When he declined the offer, he was offered and agreed to provide services on a contractual basis to the city. The Daily Dispatch covered his retirement. Unless you have documentation that somehow overrides the official city council minutes, I ask that you retract completely this statement.

Also, “police and fire chiefs were told to accompany the manager to his office…” If this was reported in your paper, it was incorrect then and is incorrect now. Please refer to “Council Instructions for Acting City Manager Mark Warren,” which Mr. Craven refers to in his editorial for the actual facts. You will see that no draconian measures were employed when Mr. Williams’ contract was not renewed.

Mr. Craven is certainly entitled to his opinions, but he is not entitled to make statements which are untruthful. His editorial contains other questionable statements such as the council may have gotten started playing with people, or that we let Attorney Strickland write his own contract. In addition, his opinion that the council’s dealings with Williams and Strickland “are high on the list of the most ill-handled government actions we’ve ever reported,” is virtually astounding, but he is entitled to it. He is not, however, entitled to present as facts things that are profoundly untrue. The Daily Dispatch should be better than this.

My request for a retraction stands. The highest ethical standards of the press is the issue here. You and I both know our freedoms are chipped away when the press fails to meet its obligations. I look forward to your full and complete retraction of these false statements.


Elissa P. Yount

CC: Sunshine Center Elon University
Mr. David Paxton
Society of Professional Journalists