KCIW News Director Lori Gallo-Stoddard has filed an ethics complaint against County Commissioner Chris Paasch, accusing him of using “his county website to promote his personal business.”
Gallo-Stoddard’s complaint points to the Dreams Hope and Faith Foundation (DHFF), a non-profit 501-C3 – according to its website – as the business.
Paasch displayed a letter from the Oregon Government Ethics Commission (OGEC) during the county Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting April 17 outlining the complaint.
Gallo-Stoddard asked the ethics commission to file her complaint anonymously, as stated in the letter, because she would be working with Paasch in her role as KCIW news director, would be reporting on the outcome of any investigation and asked the commission to keep her informed.
Prior to taking the position at KCIW, Gallo-Stoddard had worked on the committee to elect Jeri Lynn Thompson – Paasch’s opponent – to the BOC. Paasch defeated Thompson in that race.
Gallo-Stoddard noted the election was over in November and KCIW did not start its news programming until January.
Curry Coast Community Radio – KCIW in Brookings – began its news service in January with Gallo-Stoddard as its director, according to its website.
“I guess the scary thing about this,” Paasch said, “is that she represents KCIW as a news reporter not a news-maker. . . I think this may border on slanderous.”
Paasch responded to the complaint by saying he and his wife had started the foundation as a legal non-profit in order to help children and ran it with money from private donors. He said they had often funded shortcomings in its budget with their own money and emphasized he had never taken money from the foundation and had never used the ranch associated with it for monetary gain.
Paasch further stated he stepped away from his board position and his role managing the foundation when he was elected to the county board of commissioners.
Paasch characterized the complaint as simply “not true,” adding people filing complaints like this were like “crows who peck the flesh off of carcasses on the street,” and blamed similar actions for making it difficult to govern the county and retain people in government.
Gallo-Stoddard said she was researching the hospital issue in Brookings when she noticed the link to the foundation on Paasch’s county website.
“I was doing research into who had supported Paasch’s campaign in an attempt to see how many donors were connected to CHN (The Curry Health Network) or Curry General,” she said, “and when I saw the website, I wondered if there was a problem with the foundation being on the website.”
Gallo-Stoddard said she called the Oregon Secretary of State to see if it was a violation but was told the only way to determine that was to file a complaint.
Gallo-Stoddard said she suspects Paasch does receive personal gain from donations to DHFF.
“This is not a political attack,” she said. “Why would I conduct a political attack against him?”
Filing the complaint was part of research into influence, according to Gallo-Stoddard, and she requested anonymity because she thought she would likely need to communicate with Paasch in her role at KCIW.
“I am sure that is ruined now,” she said.
The complaint is in the preliminary review phase, according to OGEC officials, and all information regarding the complaint will remain confidential for 30 days from its filing.
Paasch characterized Commissioner Sue Gold, Gallo-Stoddard and KCIW as having a close working relationship. He further held up a copy of Gold’s county webpage and pointed to a link to KCIW saying KCIW also fundraises on its website and wondered aloud if Gold’s webpage was more likely than his to be in violation.
“After our (the BOC workshop) workshop yesterday,” Paash said, “I asked Commissioner Gold if she had any knowledge of this and her answer was no. I hope that is true.”
Gallo-Stoddard and Gold said they were acquaintances and had met over interviews and issues covered by KCIW. Both denied being close friends or working together politically.
Gold said she felt attacked when her webpage was held up by Paasch as an example of a possible ethical violation.
“I was bowled over,” Gold said. “I guess he was trying to diffuse his own situation. . . I just don’t know.”
She said she did have a link to KCIW on her page, but only because it linked to an interview she had done for the station and was unaware the station asked for contributions on the site. The link has been removed.
“I was not aware that she (Gallo-Stoddard) had filed a complaint against Paasch,” Gold said.
Paasch said it was time for people to work to improve the county and “stop all the picking.”
“To pick on a children’s foundation so you can create a future news story is not only unethical,” he said, “but undermines the very fabric of journalism.”
KCIW board member Tom Bozack said he had no comment about whether or not Gallo-Stoddard’s actions or political affiliations can be reconciled with her role as KCIW’s news director.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org