Oak Park: Tobin Campaign Lit Misrepresents Media Outlets
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 11, 2015)
A campaign mailer with false information was sent to Oak Park residents from Mayoral candidate Aaron Tobin’s campaign. The mailer included a false quote attributed to The Oakland County 115 News Hub (oc115).
The quote states “Stephanie Sumner was hired after being fired from the City of Pontiac. It wasn’t until after she was hired by Mayor McClellan that proper HR functions and background checks were instituted. (Oakland County 115, 9/20/2015)”
The Oakland County 115 never wrote this quote or anything similar. In fact, the stories we have done reflect that the City Manager is responsible for the hiring of new employees, not the Mayor. Fixing the human resource problems of the previous administration was an immediate concern for City Manager Erik Tungate when he came to work for Oak Park.
Additionally the oc115 never stated that Sumner was “fired from the City of Pontiac.” We said that “She worked in Pontiac from 1993-2011 when she was one of several employees who lost their jobs when the City was taken over by a State-appointed Emergency Financial Manager.” Though the difference may seem subtle, it does matter from a liability standpoint. If the oc115 did not say someone was fired, than that label should not be attributed to us.
When asked about the made-up quote, Tobin responded that it was not a quote because he did not use quotation marks.
He also said that his campaign manager Josh Cline, who he said wrote the mailer, would be available to explain further later on Sunday. Cline has been contacted via email and we will update this once his response is received.
Cline is a former staffer for ousted State Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat. Cline resigned from his position in April, just four months after starting. He later went to multiple media outlets with details of an affair between the two State Reps. The tables were then turned back on Cline when West Michigan Politics obtained information about Ashley Madison account holders and found a paid account with Cline’s information that had been active for three years. According to LinkedIN he is now a political consultant with Bellwether Strategies. And according to Tobin, this is the man who wrote the piece and is managing his campaign. While normally details of affairs are not on the oc115’s radar, matters of credibility and ethics are, especially when false statements are being made by someone with a political background.
We absolutely disagree with the idea that by leaving off punctuation it makes what was published acceptable. The flier clearly attributes a statement to our publication that is false and is a serious misrepresentation of our work. This is an unacceptable misuse of our name and reputation to further dishonest campaigning practices.
The piece also shows a quote attributed to The Detroit News. The quote on the mailer says “This [embezzlement] involves the public trust and that trust was violated. (Detroit News, 9/2015)”
In fact the quote was not made by the Detroit News, but by City Manager Erik Tungate himself.
“This involves the public trust and that trust was violated,” Tungate said. “I believe if it is determined crimes were committed, then the person responsible should be prosecuted to the furthest extent of the law.”
The quote was referring to the person responsible for the crime. He went on to clarify that only one employee was suspected and that the person was fired after the internal investigation.
For the Detroit News quote in context see http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/oakland-county/2015/09/11/former-oak-park-employee-probed-embezzlement/72092998/.
UPDATE (Oct. 13, 2015) Detroit News Managing Editor Gary Miles has responded to the oc115’s request for comment, stating “It’s troubling whenever political mailings don’t accurately reflect the record. In this case, while the quote was accurate, it was wrongly attributed to The Detroit News. It was, in fact, a quote from the city manager. We believe that all such errors should be corrected publicly and we appreciate you bringing it to our attention.”
Another problems with the mailer is that it warns against four more years though the seat is actually a two-year term. UPDATE: The mailer also uses McClellan’s home address as the source of the mailing, not Tobin’s. When asked about this, Tobin responded “It was a simple typo. I live at 14150 Balfour, and she lives at 14100.”
UPDATE (11:05am, Oct.11, 2015): Josh Cline has sent an apology to the oc115 with permission to publish, stating ”
In trying to be above board and transparent a source was placed on each fact so voters could find impartial information. In reality, these are not direct quotes unless quotation marks appear, but it is completely understandable where someone could have misconstrued an association of the paragraph in its entirety. A 2nd source should have been placed between the sentences that would have attributed to the accused clerks firing. In hindsight, it would have been better to have not placed a source on that fact because inferences were made that go beyond the direct quote made original article. Ms. Proxmire has been nothing but fair and balanced in her reporting of the race for Mayor of Oak Park and there was no ill will on my part or an intention to distort the truth. I understand that she has taken offense and has done what any respectable reporter would do, defend her reputation. She has my apologies for the offense I have caused her. I look forward to her continued reporting on the serious issues surrounding the embezzling of taxpayer dollars and getting to the bottom the many questions voters have regarding the issue. ”
UPDATE: The oc115 has called upon Tobin to publish a correction to be sent to the residents who got the false fliers. Tobin has thus far dismissed this request.
To read the previous articles on the embezzlement case, see http://oaklandcounty115.com/2015/09/25/oak-park-embezzlement-charges-filed-against-sumner-and-husband/ and http://oaklandcounty115.com/2015/09/14/former-oak-park-employee-investigated-over-missing-funds/.
For sake of disclosure, the oc115 has interviewed both candidates in a fair manner previously, and both candidates had access to online advertising on this website. Currently McClellan’s campaign is advertising, Tobin’s is not. However that has not impacted our coverage and we have been fair to both candidates. Nor does it change the facts of this situation.
This story will be updated as more information is available.
Oak Park: Tobin Campaign Lit Misrepresents Media Outlets