|State Rep Peter Durant|
It now appears that a similar issue may be brewing as regards the videotape of last week’s debate between candidates for state representative in the sixth Worcester district.
A number of those present at the debate commented upon the apparent disorganization of incumbent state representative Peter Durant when it came time for the participants to make their closing statements.
According to reports he spent what seemed like several minutes trying to find his prepared remarks and then said something to the effect that he should be able to do it from memory.
The videotape of the debate is missing these events.
Instead, there appears to be a rather sloppy job of editing that jumps from Kathleen Walker’s response to the last question about ballot item number 2 to the final moments of her closing statement.
A private memorandum by one the parties looking into this matter, provided to The O’Zone, summarizes the matter as follows:
Debate Videotaping Problem
The taping of a debate in the sixth Worcester District at the Overlook has come into question.
First, the debate took place on a Tuesday evening. The raw footage could have been broadcast the following day, but it was held back for editing and putting in 'credits'.
The 'production' copy, dated Friday (10:30 AM), was to be distributed to neighboring towns and was set to air as of this date; however, the actual broadcast in Charlton has not been verified.
Second, the released copy being sent to Southbridge for airing appeared to have approximately five minutes missing. While on one hand, the discrepancies on the completed edited tape may have been inadvertent; there remains the possibility that this was not the case. From an objective point of view, the portion of the tape that was cut portrayed one candidate as rather un-organized and ill prepared. By cutting this section, it would give viewers the impression that the candidate was rather competent in answering the previous questions in the debate.
Such a production, being aired in four communities on Cable Access, could sway voter preference to one candidate over another.
The individual was contacted and he seemed surprised that there was something wrong, and he indicated that he would 'fix' the problem. He is a part time employee of the Town of Charlton working for Charlton Cable Access.
In the event that there may have been any ethics violation, a call was been made to inquire about the issue. The call was made on Monday, October 15, 2012 to Kathy Gallant, an Investigator working for the State Ethics Commission (617-371-9500).
After briefly explaining the situation, she said that if the concerns that are raised are in regard to giving one of the candidates a leg up in the process, then it should be investigated.
Questions on the State Ethics Commission website include:
Q. What is a conflict of interest?
Generally, a conflict of interest refers to a matter in which a public employee's private interests conflict or appear to conflict with his public duties or responsibilities.
Q. May I file a complaint anonymously?
Yes, while the Commission is required to keep confidential the identity of complainants, the Commission does accept anonymous complaints. However, if you identify yourself in any way, you cannot then ask to remain anonymous.
Q. What happens once I make a complaint?
The Enforcement Division reviews the complaint to determine whether it warrants additional investigation.
Complaints about conduct that is outside the Commission's jurisdiction or beyond the Commission's statute of limitations are closed with no further action.
In most cases, complaints that fall within the Commission's jurisdiction and are timely received will receive limited investigation to corroborate facts or to obtain additional facts to assist the Enforcement Division in determining whether a complaint should be: closed with no action if the facts cannot be corroborated; closed with a confidential letter to the subject of the complaint warning about the potential conflict of interest law violation if the alleged violation is relatively minor; or assigned to an investigative team as a screening if the complaint suggests a relatively serious violation of the conflict of interest law. With the Commission's approval, a complaint may be opened for formal investigation as a Preliminary Inquiry, and at this stage, the Enforcement Division may issue Summonses to compel testimony or the production of documents.
Q. How long does the process take?
It varies with every case. Depending on the complexity of the facts or alleged violations, complaints can be resolved anywhere from several weeks to several years.
All public employees complete an Ethics questionnaire to assist in bringing full awareness to employees regarding ethical behavior.
* Massachusetts Elections Commission
In addition, a call was made to the Massachusetts Elections Commission under the auspices of Secretary of State William Galvin. The respondent said that this office has no jurisdiction over this type of situation.
The released videotape of the event follows. To view the segment in question readers can skip to the 49 minute mark and watch from that point forward. Keep in mind that the event was scheduled to last 60 minutes.
Thanks to Paul Zotos and Mike Marketti for making this video available.