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Mayor Demands Retraction; Demeans MHN Staff

Jeff Lansky, the Mayor of Maple Heights, OH.

Mayor Jeffrey Lansky
(courtesy of cleveland.com)

While we are flattered that Mayor Lansky is presumably one of our most loyal readers, we are not so pleased with his motivation for reading. Exactly two weeks ago, Maple Heights News received a surprising response to the July 17th Throwback Thursday article – a threatening and inflammatory letter from Mayor Lansky’s lawyer.

Taking it Too Far

At Maple Heights News, we have never had an issue with the facts – we find them, we print them. If someone notices something questionable, we look into it. If a retraction is necessary, we publish one. However, never have we experienced anything like the response of Mayor Lansky.

The evening of July 21st at 10:23 PM Maple Heights News received an email from Brent L. English, the Mayor’s infamous attorney. Here was the bombastic subject line:

DEMAND FOR RETRACTION AND TO CEASE AND DESIST PUBLICATION OF KNOWING FALSEHOODS | NOTICE OF IMPENDING LEGAL ACTION IF YOU DO NOT ACT

In reading that subject line, you would think that some gross infraction of justice has transpired. But no, this is just another bombastic attempt by Jeff Lansky to squash critical opinions.

Is Mayor Lansky seeking the mere correction of disputed facts? If he were, he would have simply sent an email himself. Or maybe he would have answered Chief Editor Bill Brownlee’s multiple requests during a phone conversation earlier that day. Lansky stated that there were factual errors, but refused to enlighten Brownlee as to which facts were “incorrect” during the conversation.

Our Mayor skipped right over civilized dialogue and directly to intimidation. So what were the supposed “defamatory statements”? Let’s take a look.

The Truth…According to Lansky

Mayor Jeff Lansky's letter to Maple Heights News in Maple Heights, OH.The letter from Mayor Lansky’s attorney claimed there were seven errors in the “Throwback Thursday” article. Before we look at some of the letter’s claims, it is worth pointing out that, through omission, he has affirmed the veracity of the other 80% of the article’s statements. (Though the lawyer may claim otherwise. You never can tell with lawyers.) At the least, it is safe to say that these are the “worst” of the “errors”.

Nonetheless, let us explore a few of these claims, starting with the only reasonable one:

Example #1

[You wrote] Mayor Lansky “vetoed legislation to raise property taxes which was on the ballot in November, 2013.” This assertion is false. The City Council voted to put a property tax increase on the ballot in November 2013. Mayor did not veto this legislation. The voters did not support the increase. In 2014, Mayor Lansky proposed an income tax increase and put out a flyer in support. This measure failed by about 600 votes.

What was actually written: “‘She voted to raise your city income and property taxes’ (3)… While the Mayor vetoed the legislation to put the November 2013 Property tax on the ballot, he did sent out a flyer supporting the Spring 2014 income tax levy.”

We stand corrected. The Mayor did not veto the legislation, he refused to sign the legislation to put the property tax increase on the ballot. [A veto, requires a 2/3 vote by council to override it, whereas when the Mayor refuses to sign a piece of legislation it takes effect as if it were signed.] So he did not have an opinion? Or did he not want to state his opinion? Whatever the case, he still bashed his opponent for voting for a tax increase and then proceeds to propose legislation and send out flyers supporting a tax increase in the Spring of 2014.

Example #2

[You wrote] Mayor Lansky “closed fire station # 2.” In fact, it was closed at the direction of Fire Chief John Drsek.

What was actually written: “‘[The Mayor’s opponent]** Permitted police forces to drop to critically low protection levels’… (3) Mayor Lansky, who is also Safety Director, allowed fire fighters/paramedic levels to drop 30% since 2004, and CLOSED Fire Station #2.”

For Mayor Lansky to push all the responsibility for closing Fire Station #2 on the Fire Chief is unacceptable. Leaders should not blame such things on the people they lead. Maybe, technically speaking, one might be able to say “the Fire Chief did it, not the Mayor”. But to do so would be to ignore the fact that the Mayor, as Safety Director, is ultimately responsible.

Moreover, the Fire Chief did the best he could with what the Mayor gave him to work with. Mayor Lansky laid off more firefighters and eliminated needed overtime, so the Chief took action to accomplish the most good with the reduced staff. Throwing Fire Chief John Drsek, who was about to retire, under the bus is inexcusable.

Example #3

[You wrote] Mayor Lansky “eliminated recycling.” In fact, the Maple Heights City council did this by majority vote through legislation.

The solid waste contract legislation, that also contained the immediate elimination of the recycling program, was introduced by Mayor Lansky. Furthermore, he signed the legislation after council approved it. This claimed “error” offends the intellect of any individual with an ounce of common sense.

Example #4

[You wrote] Mayor Lansky “reduced van services for senior citizens.” In fact, one of the meal delivery drivers retired and another, who was part-time, quit . However, their positions were picked up by volunteers with no loss of service.

First, “reduced van services” referred to the elimination of individual shopping trips which made them all group shopping trips, a change that Vopat said has made them more efficient. While this results in the Senior Services being more fiscally responsible, this is still a “reduction” from the individualized service that seniors were previously receiving.

Example #5

[You wrote] Mayor Lansky “stopped Safety Town.” Safety Town was suspended due to total lack of participation from the residents.

What was actually written: “‘[The Mayor’s opponent] Allowed city pools to close and eliminated special city-sponsored events for children and senior citizens’ (3)… Mayor Lansky also closed the pool (after building a new one that the residents are still paying for), stopped Safety Town (also new during his first term), Music in the Park and discontinued fireworks.”

Why a new safety town if residents weren’t interested? Why was it reopened by Mayor Lansky to only be shut down (“suspended”) again? History is repeating itself. So, it looks like Mayor Lansky agrees that the new safety town was stopped.

Examples #6 & #7

[You wrote] Mayor Lansky voted “no” to print and mail city newsletters to residents. As you know, or should know, Mayor Lansky does not have a vote at city council meetings. The City Council decided not to expend money for this purpose.

[You wrote] Mayor Lansky voted “no” for the renewal of the Code Red emergency alerting system for residents. Again, he has no vote at city council meetings. The Maple Heights City Council as a body voted to remove this item from the budget in the year 2013.

What was actually written: “‘[She]** voted no to print and mail city newsletter for residents’… (3) Discontinued in 2014…. [She]** Voted no for renewal of Code Red  Resident Alerting System’… (3) Discontinued in 2013″

If the Mayor had actually been reading the article for information rather than an opportunity to attack, he would have noticed that this statement was from his mailer criticizing his opponent (Neomi Mitchell).

Mayor Lanksy claims our article was carelessly written. A brief review shows it was carelessly read.

The Way Over the Top Grand Finalé

As if demanding a retraction and threatening a lawsuit was not enough, the letter takes the effort to personally attack the character and motivation of the article’s author. The second paragraph sets the tone for the rest of the letter. It was not sufficient to state a small portion of the facts were “incorrect”, they had to be “ill-informed, false and defamatory.”

Then the letter attacks Mrs. Brownlee’s bio where she states “I like to empower and equip others.” It also distastefully underlines the word “read” as if to mock the idea that she actually read the facts.

Finally, the Mayor[‘s lawyer] seemingly throws in a personal jab:

Perhaps, Ms. Brownlee, you could use your precious time to find out the facts, not recklessly publish false allegations about the Mayor.

This is well beyond the confines of a professional dispute of facts. These comments are completely uncalled for. To attack a hard-working member of the community at Maple Heights News is unacceptable. We give our time freely to help our neighbors understand what is happening.

Our Commitment

Maple Heights News was founded because we saw a hole in our community – no local news. This was crippling our City. People were uninformed and therefore without the power to influence what was happening in their neighborhood. We did not like to see our neighbors helpless. Therefore, we took it upon ourselves to fill the gap.

While we knew it would be difficult and sometimes messy, we never expected to be treated in this fashion. It is unbelievable that a person in the highest position of city government would treat the press with such disrespect. Actions like these are unacceptable and we ask that you would stand beside us as we continue to shed light on our City.

Mayor Lansky has chose to burn another bridge. He is close to being an island unto himself. So be it – Maple Heights and Maple Heights News will not be intimidated.

** verbiage added later for (unnecessary) clarification.

5 Responses to Mayor Demands Retraction; Demeans MHN Staff

  1. Jane August 5, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    While it can be difficult as a resident to find information, it is in fact crippling and detrimental to be fed misinformation and opinions claiming to be credible news. Trying to discredit those you work with, especially in local government, is abuse of the oath sworn for your office. A personal dislike or argument is not news. Maple Heights would get through the financial crisis quicker and come out stronger with leaders who work together on solutions, not defaming individuals.

    • auberta prehoda August 6, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      Agree with Jane. Well said.

  2. James T. Krbec August 9, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Since recycling has been stopped, will the savings be shown in lesser property tax bills?

    • Lynde Brownlee August 9, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

      I believe that based on the formula in Chapter 1060.02 that the assessment on residents property tax bills should go down. Here are Councilman Brownlee’s comments at the May 21st, 2014, meeting where 2014-37 with numbers. (you can find the $1.5mil that Brownlee says was collected is actually collected on the fiscal officers website on page 2, Special Assesments). When the Fiscal Recovery Plan was done it has $200,000 being transferred from the solid waste fund to the general fund (after all rubbish fees are paid) starting in 2014.

  3. Jessie August 9, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    I’d like to know if you have changed your opinion on the closing of station 2? If the new interim chief could re-open it, couldn’t chief drsek have kept it open all along? Maybe the retired chief was solely responsible for that decision, like Mayor Lansky’s council indicated.

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