Last month it was the Wheeling Intelligencer, this month it is the News-Register -- the anniversary of their founding becomes an excuse for a self-congratulatory editorial. From yesterday’s lead editorial:
We do not slant our reports to favor anyone. We let the chips fall where they may.
Our responsibility is to our communities and states, to what is good for them. We are obliged to no individual, organization, political party or ideology.
A lot of what I write about on this blog refutes these points. Rather than digging up past instances, we need look no further than the News-Register’s next editorial, “Settling Lawsuits May Be Bad Policy,” for examples. The editorial is about defending WV Secretary of State and Ogden favorite, Mac Warner.
Some background. Last week, four former state employees fired early last year by Warner won an out-of-court settlement for close to a million dollars. The settlement was covered by most state media in neutral fashion. For example, the AP headlined it as:
Ex-Secretary of State Employees Settle Lawsuits Over Firings
Rather than tell us what happened objectively, the News-Register devoted almost all of the front-page article to Warner’s angry response:
Mac Warner critical of lawsuit settlements
(It’s a good thing that they do not slant their reports to favor anyone.)
The editorial doesn’t disappoint:
Such settlements cost taxpayers millions of dollars, he [Warner] pointed out.
Indeed they do. Insurance companies sometimes calculate that settling would be cheaper than going to trial — even if the defendant officeholder has a good case.
At no point does the editorial demonstrate that Warner had a good case and yet they agree with him that the state should fight the lawsuits. (Who do you think has the better calculations on who would win such a case? An insurance company or a stubborn politician and the Republican “newspaper” that supports everything he does?)
Here’s how I concluded my previous blog post on the News-Register’s biased coverage of Warner:
A local editorial on this is sure to follow. Sadly, it will sympathize with Warner rather than criticize him for doing what even a non-lawyer like myself saw right from the beginning – his action to replace state civil servants based upon party affiliation was illegal no matter how it’s spun. Ogden papers love to criticize Democrats for wasting taxpayer money. We still have eight more suits to go – how much more money is this Ogden favorite going to cost the state before he’s finally criticized?
Not only are they hypocritical, they’ve become very predictable.
Finally, the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s political reporter, Phil Kabler, devoted much of his Sunday column to Warner’s actions. For us to better understand how much money Warner has already and may soon cost the state, Kabler used the price tag on suspended WV Supreme Court Allen Loughry’s expensive and now-infamous couch as his basic unit of measurement:
Warner, who has already cost the state 31.25 Loughry couches, seemingly faces a daunting challenge in taking the remaining eight wrongful termination cases to court: In order to prevail, he will have to prove to a judge or jury that the fired employees were, in his words, “incompetent,” “bad,” “inept,” and “ineffectual.”
In my experience, attorneys and claims adjusters don’t settle cases out-of-court to avoid the extra workload or because they advocate “jackpot justice.” They weigh the odds of winning and losing in court, and the costs of going to trial, and act accordingly.
Meanwhile, now that the Legislature has lowered the standards for impeachment to maladministration and wasteful and lavish spending, what happens if the cost of Warner’s obstinance goes on to exceed 100 Loughry couches? It’s possible.