Radio spot creates political buzz
May 9, 2008
An attorney complained that the campaign for Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott, a Democrat vying for seat A on the Summit County Council, improperly benefited from announcements on KPCW.
KPCW News Director Leslie Thatcher agreed to change the announcement that identifies the funds the station receives from the county as "a grant by the Summit County Commission," Summit County Attorney David Brickey said.
"I understand your concern is that the current [announcement] references the award coming from the ‘County Commission’, on which [Elliott] currently serves," Brickey states in a letter to South Summit resident Bruce Margolius, who complained to the county about the radio spots.
But Thatcher agreeing to change the announcement "is a voluntary act on the part of KPCW," Brickey stressed.
"I do not believe the County Attorney’s Office can instruct or prohibit KPCW from running the ‘public service announcements,’" Brickey states in the letter.
At issue is whether the announcement recognizing the County Commission for providing KPCW money from the county’s Recreation, Arts and Parks (RAP) Tax unfairly favors Elliott’s re-election bid. She is campaigning against Woodland Republican Bill Miles who was defeated in 2006 by Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer for a seat on the board.
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Elliott, a Democrat, is "unfairly advantaged by the act of an organization that receives funding from the county under a statute which specifically forbids funding of political activities," Margolius states in his letter to Brickey April 20.
Elliott is the only sitting commissioner running for a seat on the new Summit County Council, which is slated to replace the three-member County Commission next year.
The announcement about the RAP Tax grant "constitutes a promotional announcement for Commissioner Elliott and is misleading for at least two reasons," according to Margolius.
"First, the grant to KPCW of RAP Tax funds is of public money. The funding is, therefore, by the taxpayers and is merely approved by the commission," Margolius told Brickey. "Moreover, the announcement is played frequently during the day, including during news programs, while the grant is earmarked specifically for three shows: ‘All Things Considered’, ‘This Green Earth’ and ‘Cada Domingo’."
Brickey said he suggested to KPCW that they eliminate the reference in the announcement to the "commission."
"The [announcement] could sound something like: Funding for programming on KPCW comes in part from a grant by Summit County from the Recreation, Arts and Parks Tax," Brickey states in his letter to Margolius.
Grants from RAP Tax are distributed to non-profit groups that promote cultural programming in Summit County. The Summit County Commission makes the final decisions about which groups receive the money.