By Luis A. Alejo
The latest hit piece by Royal Calkins against me is not only misleading and personal, but offensive. Reporters are people just like the rest of us, with their own opinions and biases, but some do their reporting much better, without obvious bias and personal animosity. Calkins, however, is known to actually praise and politically endorse elected officials and candidates he likes, and diss the ones he doesn’t.
In his latest piece, Calkins not only misses the point of my continued raised concerns over complaints that get filed, investigated and later dismissed, but as a Latino elected official, I also take exception when a white reporter equates my opinions with being “tricky.” There’s some subtle racism in that characterization, but then he goes extreme in making comparisons to Donald Trump simply because I use Twitter. Jeez!
He also falsely suggests that ongoing investigations “is making some of his many contributors a little slower” even though I ended my re-election campaign fundraising events last November. Yes, that’s pretty irresponsible and ridiculous, but I’m glad that the Voices editors at least labeled it as “Opinion” rather than a factual news story.
But Calkins’ biased and at times, false personal attacks against me go back years to 2013 when he was the editor of the Monterey Herald. He threw a cheap shot for New Year’s resolutions by saying that I needed to be seen in the Monterey Peninsula “at least once” during my term and that “some of your constituents here are eager to meet you,” not knowing that I didn’t represent the Peninsula in my then-Assembly District. When I reached out to ask for a correction, he refused and insisted it was. I even had to send him a map to show how wrong he was. But an apology or correction was never forthcoming, and only recently did he try to fabricate that he did back then.
In holiday tradition last December, he again attacked me in his ineptly written holiday poem in this publication by referring to me as “kind of a hoser.” Yes, it’s juvenile and dim witted, but it does show his bias. But I get it. This guy doesn’t have to like me, but at least do a better job on the reporting side and he especially didn’t like that I called him out last November.
It started over the Laguna Seca Raceway management change vote on Nov. 19. It was no coincidence that Calkins reported on a complaint, filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), only on the day before the key vote before the Board of Supervisors despite that it was filed months before. Calkins’ headline read in part, “John Narigi, under FPPC investigation, poised to run Laguna Seca.” On the day of the vote, many public members cited the complaint and story as a basis to argue their point of view against Narigi or make disparaging remarks, despite no findings or conclusions having been made against him.
I’ve been in politics long enough to know that FPPC complaints are filed for a lot of reasons: sometimes to get back at political opponents, sometimes to sway key votes or elections, sometimes to generate negative publicity, and many times for legitimate reasons. But on many occasions, they also get thrown out.
What bothered me in Calkins’ November story is that there was no caveat for the public to be reminded that many times these complaints are filed, investigations ensue, people are defamed, and many months later, the FPPC dismisses the complaint.
This is especially poignant after the highly publicized incident against Salinas Councilman Scott Davis, who was defamed, in my opinion, with negative publicity about an FPPC and State Attorney General Investigation against him just before his June 5, 2018, election for county sheriff.
The headlines in late April and May 2018 stated, “State investigates Monterey County Sheriff candidate,” “FPPC launches investigation into campaign contributions,” “Monterey County sheriff candidate faces corruption accusations,” among others. None of the reporting mentioned or made clear to the public that a complaint or investigation does not mean guilt and that these allegations could later be dismissed.
But that’s exactly what happened five months later when both the FPPC and the Attorney General’s office dismissed the entire complaint against Davis. Local headlines read, “Ex-Monterey County sheriff candidate cleared of wrongdoing” and “FPPC closes case on accusations in sheriff’s elections.” But the severe damage was already done against Davis and the election was long over.
Only 19 days after that Nov. 19 vote, another FPPC complaint was filed by the same person against the Board of Supervisors and John Narigi, and was thrown out by the FPPC shortly thereafter. Calkins never reported anything about it.
This week, another complaint, filed by an “anonymous” person against the local political action committee that was also a focus in Calkins’ November article, was largely settle for what is considered in the elections world as relatively minor infractions for only two counts of late reporting under the required 24-hour reporting period. I tweeted my opinions about it and Calkins, apparently, didn’t like any of it.
But for the record, I have also made clear that when complaints are filed there is a thorough process by our very capable and diligent state enforcement agency and if wrongdoing is found in the end, there will be consequences to be had. But again, let’s not jump to conclusions only on a complaint or investigation.
I know that this is the rough and tumble world of politics. All I ask is that in the light of the Davis incident, that the public be reminded. And hopefully, that a reporter be a little less biased and a little more professional.
Luis A. Alejo is a Monterey County Supervisor and former State Assemblymember.
Editor’s note: Supervisor Alejo refers to a December 2019 FPPC complaint filed by campaign consultant Christian Schneider raising the question of whether the county’s award of the Laguna Seca management contract to John Narigi constituted an illegal conflict of interest. The FPPC in a letter to Schneider said it was referring that question, at Schneider’s request, to the state Attorney General’s Office and the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office.
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