Jun 26, 2009

Palmdale Water District unplugged

Palmdale Water District General Manager Randy Hill recently admonished his employees not to talk to a specific reporter at the Antelope Valley Press - and threatened them with discipline "up to and including termination" if they failed to follow the directive - after the newspaper published a story about the district's financial problems.

Aside from being hamhanded, and a badge of honor for reporter Alisha Semchuck, the general manager's order might violate the law, according to Jim Ewert of the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

From the AV Press:

Targeting a reporter to be singled out is shaky practice [when] viewed through the lens of case law, Ewert said.

"If they're going to provide access to one media source, they must provide to all," Ewert said. "They have to treat all media sources the same." That conclusion falls under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Asked about it, Hill was quick with an answer.

"It applies to all media," Hill said of his memos. "I just happened to use your name because you've been the problem," he told the Valley Press reporter.

Maybe it's because public water agencies are usually ignored that they get so bent out of shape when they're forced into the light. No matter. Hill has all but guaranteed that the district will face added scrutiny for months to come.

(via CalAware)

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