I'm more than a little peeved about the press release from Fifth District Supervisor candidate Ryan Sundberg's campaign, which was sent to the Times-Standard earlier today (see below). In it, the campaign declines to participate in the series of political debates that the NCJ and KHUM will be producing throughout the month of May. (Tune in tonight, 6-7 p.m., to hear Ryan Burns talk with the candidates for Sheriff.)
If this release is to be believed, Sundberg is bowing out because KHUM is owned by Lost Coast Communications, Inc., which is majority-owned by rival candidate Patrick Cleary and his family. This, it seems, presents a "conlict of interest," though what that conflict could be is entirely unclear. The Journal is moderating the debates and asking the questions; KHUM employees will be there to twiddle the knobs, but will not otherwise participate.
We tried to call Sundberg and reassure him of this yesterday. We left a message on Sundberg's cell, but instead got a call back from Sundberg's, uh, high-energy campaign manager, Rich Mostranski. Mostranski -- never shy about answering questions on his candidate's behalf -- assured us that it was an obvious conflict for Cleary's station to host a debate on the Fifth District race. I'm sorry to say that he couldn't really define what the conflict was, or what it would look like in practice, but he insisted that it was obvious. Because the Journal would tilt the debate simply out of gratitude for being given some KHUM airtime (making ourselves look like fools in the meanwhile)? No, no, Mostranski said. It wasn't to do with the Journal. Because Cleary would line his pockets with revenue from the smash-hit broadcast of a political debate? Unclear.
So now the Sundberg/Mostranski camp is asking Cleary to "do the right thing" by recusing himself, but gives no sort of indication of what "recusal" might look like in this instance. Not showing up himself? Banning his people from holding a debate at all? It's all a bit confusing.
We wanted to have a frank and smart discussion of the issues on the most popular radio station in Humboldt County, and there's no reason that shouldn't be possible, Cleary or no Cleary. Again: Tune in tonight for an example. And unless there's a change of heart -- and why shouldn't there be? -- you can hear Cleary and fellow candidates Patrick Higgins and Jeff Lytle debate the issues in the Fifth District on May 20.
Sundberg is universally regarded as the nice guy to end all nice guys, and that has certainly been our experience. We can't help but believe that he's getting some bad advice about this. Call us, Ryan! If there's anything at all we can do to assure you that the thing will be clean and fair, we will do it.
Ryan Sundberg Declines Invitation to Lost Coast Communication's KHUM Radio Debate
North Coast Journal and HKUM (sic), a Lost Coast Communications radio station, are requesting candidates for 5th District Supervisor to participate in a live radio forum.
Sundberg is politely declining to participate because one of the candidates, Patrick Cleary, owns Lost Coast Communications, and Sundberg believes there is an inherent conflict of interest.
When previously asked by Hank Sims, of the North Coast Journal, about potential conflict of interest for a Supervisor as a radio station owner, Patrick Cleary said he would recuse himself. Here is the opportunity for Mr. Cleary to demonstrate his ability to recognize a conflict of interest, and do the right thing.
"I am appreciative that KHUM has provided a public service by introducing the public to candidates who are running for a variety of county offices. However, in this particular race, the station's owner and CEO is running for 5th District Supervisor. This would be akin to a newspaper owner running for office and being interviewed by a reporter from his paper. The public has to be assured of professional objectivity", said Sundberg.
Sundberg welcomes the opportunity to participate in a public forum with other 5th District candidates, but feels this is only appropriate on a radio station not owned by Lost Coast Communications. He has participated in two public forums hosted by the League of Women Voters, co-sponsored by Kiwanis of Willow Creek, and Healthy Humboldt in McKinleyville, and will participate in the KEET forum May 12.