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2012-05-03

Courier answers Ms. Lindig's allegations

By Gail S Joiner BCC Owner/Publisher

On April 25, the Bandera Bulletin, and April 26, the Bandera County Courier were obliged to publish a political ad entitled THE TRUTH for Bandera County Attorney candidate, Janna Lindig, chastising the Courier for alleged misstatements in a April 19 article. The article referenced apparent sharing of sensitive information about a case that had led to a civil lawsuit, filed by Stephen Schaffer, against Bandera County Attorney John Payne.

In almost eight years of publishing the Courier, I have, thankfully, been compelled on only four to five occasions to defend publicly the integrity of my editor and my publication. After thoroughly researching each of the allegations made in the two political advertisements, I feel that I have to respond.

Due to the massive number comments and allegations made against the Courier, brevity, to address each allegation, will be difficult. I am addressing 13 points of contention to corroborate my final conclusion.

Readers uninterested in the individual discrepancies are advised to skip to the last three paragraphs.

Note, however, that number 11 contains facts not yet revealed in previous articles.

The comments and accusations made by Ms. Lindig are in italics, while my answers for each follow:

1) The Bandera County Courier's April 19, 2012 edition contains an article entitled: 'Were details of alleged rape released?"

My answer: No, not to me.
Not True: In your paid political ad, you state that you received three written statements from Sergeant Jose E. Barreto, one of which contained "the name of the victim's mother, the victim, and the three alleged offenders." In most circles, this would be considered details. Especially since all names, with the exception of the victim's mother, are minors. As a matter of fact, the victim's name is not even included in the lawsuit.

2) The Courier, for the second time (there was another article on April 12, 2012) tried to misdirect attention away from Mr. Payne's conduct. ... As I stated to the Bulletin before it published its April 4 article, it is disappointing to me that anyone wants to divert attention from Mr. Payne's conduct by pointing a finger at Sergeant Barreto or by trying to make the civil case "politically motivated."

Not True: The Courier articles were about the civil lawsuit and investigators releasing privileged information to a third party.
Considering the Courier articles were not published until April 12 & 19, I do not believe the Courier could be blamed for these attempts prior to April 4.

3) "A newspaper is not a courtroom and should not be used as the place to credit or discredit, prove or disprove, allegations."

Incorrect: I concur; a newspaper is not a courtroom. As the watchdog of and for the people, a newspaper holds an awesome responsibility to report the facts of any case involving any person or entity representing or directly endangering public welfare.

Newspapers have a long-standing tradition of doing just that, i.e., Watergate, the Sharpstown banking scandal, and more.

4) I regret that I have also provided a statement to the Courier for publication, and that statement was not as well composed."

What? No "statement" was provided to the Courier for publication. Ms Lindig purchased a paid political ad, which contained the exact verbiage provided and was composed to the purchaser's specifications. The Courier deadlines are after those of the Bandera Bulletin. After two submissions and multiple ad proofs, the composition should have been corrected.

5) No effort to contact Janna Lindig.

True: The article, although implicating Ms Lindig by association, concerned investigators sharing information about a sensitive case to an outside party. Since Ms. Lindig had already confirmed the information in the April 4 Bandera Bulletin article, and Sgt. Barreto openly admitted to the allegation, there was no need to confirm the fact.

6) I did not ever have or get the file from the Sheriff's office on what the Courier describes as the alleged rape.

Not Guilty: The Courier never stated Ms. Lindig had been in possession of "the file," only that "investigators had shared sensitive information about the case."

7) Misrepresentations were made by the Courier to Chief Deputy Smith which confused him as to the 'time line.' ... I believe the Courier told Chief Deputy Smith that "details of the case,"..."had been leaked" to me.
This is not true.

Not True: We asked the questions, Chief Deputy Smith answered. A letter of reprimand was issued to Sgt. Barreto following a March 6 interview with Capt. Charlie Hicks. The Courier did not interview Chief Deputy Smith until April 5.

8) I understand why Chief Deputy Smith was "dumbfounded" to hear that the sensitive case file was given to me, because IT WAS NOT GIVEN TO ME.

Incorrect: The Courier wrote, "Smith went on to say he had been dumbfounded to learn that sheriff's department investigators had shared information about the alleged rape case with Lindig."

9) I did not interject myself into the sheriff's investigation.

Not Guilty: this was a quote by Chief Deputy Smith, not written by the Courier.

10) If Sergeant Barreto actually told the Courier that he gave me the file connected to the report, he was mistaken.

Not Guilty: The Courier never wrote that Sgt. Barreto had given Ms Lindig the file nor did Sgt. Barreto ever say he had given her the file.

11) At some time after I was given the written statements by Sergeant Barreto, and AFTER confirming that I would have cooperation, I began preparation of a complaint for the State Bar. PLEASE NOTE, NONE OF THIS WOULD BE MADE PUBLIC IF THE COURIER HAD NOT WRITTEN THE APRIL 19, 2012 ARTICLE."

What? There had never been any mention of a complaint to the State Bar in the Courier or any other source of which we are aware. It remains unclear why the Courier's article would compel Ms. Lindig divulge that she had prepared a complaint to the State Bar. (A practice, that I am sure the State Bar would frown upon publicizing before their review.) However, now that we have been made aware the complaint, let's examine the facts:

A) "My involvement in preparing a complaint ended when a person who was directly affected by Mr. Payne's conduct made the decision to proceed with the complaint to the State Bar.

I forwarded my research on the complaint and that ended my involvement."

If we're looking for the truth, the "person" was Stephen Schaefer, the same attorney who filed the civil suit against Mr. Payne.

B) I was never consulted about the suit, was never asked to help, had nothing to offer and offered nothing.

Not True: Although I prefer to believe that Ms. Lindig was never consulted or was never asked to help with the lawsuit, she admittedly forwarded her research to Mr. Schaffer for a complaint to the State Bar. The complaint was filed on March 7, 2012. The fact that the civil suit was not filed until March 23 would certainly have given Mr. Schaffer access to the information before filing the civil lawsuit and would cast doubt on the statement that Ms. Lindig "had nothing to offer and offered nothing."

Saving the BEST FOR LAST:

12) By an article in the Courier dated April 19, 2012, the Courier tried to defend its owner's "good friend" Mr. John Payne.

Not True: Since Ms Lindig's political ad began with a very personal statement, I will end my list with a personal answer. I have known John and Cindy Payne for eight to ten years and it is true that I consider John a good friend.

Janna Lindig I have known for over 40 years and, until this political campaign began, I had considered her a friend as well. However, both references are irrelevant to the fact that your comment is untrue. I am far too old, have too much commonsense and have been in the newspaper business way too long to base my political beliefs and choices on friendship - as most elected officials and businessmen in town can verify.

The Courier strives to present facts in an effort to allow the reading public to draw their own conclusions.

I do not believe that I have treated any candidate or businessman with anything less that the respect that each of us as individuals and human beings deserve. I will be happy to accept criticism for errors made.

However, I will not, accept criticism and disrespectful degradation for something I haven't done.

As demonstrated above, Judith Pannebaker and the Bandera County Courier have been chastised for statements we did not write. We have presented the facts of the incident truthfully and accurately. Judith has been the editor of the Courier for many years and her integrity, in that capacity, is above reproach.

If a person is going to accuse someone of misstatements, they should , first, be sure that the statements quoted are correct.

According to my research, the only misstatements in Ms. Lindig's ad were the ones where Judith Pannebaker was misquoted or blamed her for writing something that was actually said by someone else.

Friendly Advice: My concern is that someone running for the office of county attorney should be more adept at deciphering facts and quoting accurately. Although deliberately intended to harm my business, this situation is, more importantly to me, extremely small when compared to the responsibilities assumed by those elected to the office of county attorney.

Here, all that was necessary, to see the discrepancies, was to have re-read what had been written and to compare the article to the accusations made.

However, if elected, Janna Lindig will be required to read and communicate the information in each case accurately. I sincerely hope, for the sake of our county, that, if elected, that skill level will be improved.

The Courier's answer to Ms. Lindig's allegations that the newspaper has been trying to misdirect the public is in the words of Julia Ward Howe, THE TRUTH "is marching on" - with Judith Pannebaker in the Bandera County Courier.